If we can forget the part where Tristan Thompson revealed that he’s “not a deep dish guy,” the veteran center said all the right things.
On Wednesday, Thompson stood in front of reporters for the first time as a member of the Chicago Bulls, and the big man looked nothing short of comfortable as he generously sprinkled a portion of jokes around a plate of detailed answers. And while that’s likely a product of Thompson’s naturally larger-than-life personality, his demeanor seemed to also reflect that of a winning environment.
Thompson will sit on his third NBA bench in the last month when he suits up for the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. Starting the season as a backup big man for the Sacramento Kings, he found his way to Indianapolis as part of the Tyrese Haliburton-Domantas Sabonis swap. Thompson was long thought of as a potential buyout candidate as he sat on a losing roster, and that didn’t change when arrived to the 20-40 Indiana Pacers. He went on to appear in just four games for Indiana before head coach Rick Carlisle awkwardly granted his wish. Three days later, the Chicago Bulls made their signing of Thompson official.
This recent NBA hop-scotch for Thompson is about winning more than anything else. Someone who spent his first nine seasons in Cleveland, he became plenty familiar with being on the right side of the win column. And, with that, comes a clear idea of what it takes to compete at the next level, which is something he hopes to bring to this Bulls team immediately.
“I’m just an outspoken person, so I’m just going to speak,” Thompson said. “I know enough about the game, and I’ve been in a lot of different scenarios and game situations where I can just tell what I experienced or what I see. That’s how you grow. I think the more honest and more transparent we are with each as a ballgame, especially with the team tries to make a deep run, it can only just benefit us.”
As important as that veteran leadership is, I can see how some might grind their teeth at a quote like that. The last thing the Chicago Bulls need is a locker room killer. In fact, the main reason this team has clicked in the way they have is their respect and understanding of one another. Arturas Karnisovas implied well before the trade deadline that he would remain cautious of messing with this team’s natural chemistry. Adding a boisterous and vocal veteran feels like it could rock the boat.
But, make no mistake, Thompson knows what he is here to do.
“Kind of like how those old school bigs played. Punching that clock, being a workhorse, do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s set screens, diving for loose balls, finishing around the rim, whatever my team needs to win, that’s all that matters,” Thompson said. “So I think I’ll mesh pretty well with this group. I think it’s an area that this team can benefit from my energy each and every night. So I’m excited.”
Thompson later went on to compare himself to Javonte Green, his former Celtic teammate who has quickly gained tremendous respect from fans and players alike for his devotion to doing the little things. Combine that role acceptance from Thompson with a willingness to share his championship insight, and it feels like the beginning of a far healthier relationship than might meet the eye.
Not to mention, the Bulls could very well benefit from a more in-your-face mentality. Thompson will provide a more bruising brand of basketball that should be a nice counterbalance to the versatile scoring ability of Nikola Vucevic. He will offer an edge that is needed when the physicality ramps up as the playoffs near, especially on the glass where he’s averaged 8.5 rebounds per game over his career.
None of this is to say Thompson will drastically improve the Chicago Bulls ceiling (after all, it already feels pretty darn high). But what Thompson does is offer much-needed experience and proven role acceptance at a position of need. In other words, you largely know what you’re going to get with Thompson, but that is exactly how he wants it to be:
“You want to be a guy you can always just plug in,” Thompson told reporters, “and I feel like I’ve built a niche for myself in this league by being one of those guys you can plug in there and go out and play.”
Thompson will have his first opportunity to do just that when the Bulls welcome the Atlanta Hawks to the United Center at 7:00 p.m. CT tonight.
Watch Thompson’s full conversation with the media by clicking on the link below:
"Coach, did you tell them I should have gone to Florida?" 🤣
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 24, 2022