Is the Cleveland Cavaliers love affair with Kevin Love finally coming to an end? Is LeBron James now endorsing Tristan Thompson as his team’s future at power forward? Maybe, sort of.
Defacto Cavaliers GM LeBron James wanted Love last summer and what James wants, the Cavs will (justifiably) bend over backwards to get. However, it would be easy to suggest Cleveland has been just as good, or even different but better, since Thompson took over as the starting power forward after Love was injured in the first round of the playoffs.
Chris Haynes on Cleveland.com reports a significant change in King James view of the world since that happened.
“Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career,” James said on Monday after practice.
“He’s a young guy, but he’s a professional that loves to come to work every day. He plays his heart out every single night, and he has zero sense of entitlement in this league. All he cares about is coming into work. Whatever is given to him, he relishes the opportunity, and he’s a great teammate. So he’ll be here for a long time.”
That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s in stark contrast to how King James and the Cavaliers viewed Thompson at the start of the season.
After starting 189 games in a row and averaging better than 11 points and 9 boards over the past two seasons, the Cavs and agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group couldn’t come to terms on an extension to Thompson’s rookie contract. A last minute four-year $52 million offer was declined. It’s going to cost someone a lot more to sign the 24-year-old this summer.
And Thompson appears to remember the slight all too well. He knows it was James who sent now Rookie of the Year and fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota to get Love so Love could take the starting job he had earned.
“I appreciate the compliment, if that’s a compliment, from LeBron,” Thompson said.
Having James move his status from – Love’s backup to ‘you should probably be a Cavalier‘ – isn’t exactly the ringing endorsement Thompson should feel he has earned over the last three weeks. It still sounds like the King is continuing to hedge his bets in favor of a better option?
Cleveland will give Thompson a qualifying offer this summer and retain the right to match any deal Paul can negotiate for his now much higher profile client. It will likely be a max deal, however, if James and the Cavaliers really want to smooth over last year’s slight and acknowledge what Thompson has accomplished in this year’s playoffs, they’ll never let it get that far. If James really wants Thompson to be a ‘Cavalier for his whole career,’ he’ll ask his team to make Thompson a max offer on the first day of free agency, thus ending the speculation. That would be a real endorsement.