Seven minutes is all Tristan Thompson needed to show Chicago Bulls fans why he’s in town.
After a quiet trade deadline for the Bulls, word broke that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley still had plans to bolster their frontcourt presence (to the relief of many). Thompson officially signed with the organization three days later, bringing with him an 11-year resume that featured 83 playoffs games and one championship ring. When he spoke with reporters for the first time earlier this week, he made clear he would put it all to work: “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.”
Thompson wasn’t kidding. In those first 7 minutes of his Bulls debut, the big man was a six-foot-nine ball of energy, scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. His first bucket came on a Coby White bounce-pass feed as he dove toward the rim to finish with an emphatic two-handed slam. Then, roughly four minutes later in the second quarter, Thompson hustled back in transition and threw his hands up to call for the ball. Ayo Dosunmu dished it past Kevin Huerter as Thompson turned to rise up for the easy finish.
“Not surprised,” DeRozan said of Thompson’s effective debut. “Played against him for years, and me understanding what he brings, I know every bit of it. It was fun to see us in the same jersey tonight. You could tell what his impact, what it brings right away.”
They may have both been simple buckets, but Bulls fans had yet to see those simple buckets this season. Tony Bradley was signed as the Vucevic backup, and while he’s provided a decent effort in his 45 appearances, there’s a reason he couldn’t be trusted with more than 11 minutes a night. The 24-year-old has struggled to provide the same kind of athleticism and physicality this team has asked of its consistent role players. Thompson offered both those qualities immediately, going on to finish the night with 11 points and 6 rebounds off the bench in 13 minutes of action. His relentless pressure at the rim got him to the free-throw line for 8 attempts (where he made 5), and his veteran savvy was more than noticeable as he barked orders on the defensive end and on the bench.
From the energy to the execution, it added an entirely new dynamic to this Bulls team.
“He’s a workhorse. His energy is crazy. He’s a high-energy guy, uplifting, he wants to win,” Dosunmu told reporters. “You can tell he wants to win and that he’s won championships … he’s a veteran that we needed.”
Thompson’s energy shows up strongest on the glass. For a Bulls team that has hauled in the 4th-fewest rebounds per game, Thompson certainly felt like a calculated target by this front office. The big man has averaged 8.5 rebounds a night over his career, proving to be especially elite on the offensive boards. Cleaning the Glass lists Thompson’s offensive rebounding percentage as ranking in at least the NBA’s 90th percentile for the past eight seasons. The 2.3 offensive rebounds per game he brought to the Bulls immediately became the best mark on the team.
The rebounding, the hustle, the personality: It all made for an easy fit, and it also all made plenty of sense when Thompson took the podium after the game.
“Idolized Dennis Rodman. Idolized The Worm,” Thompson told reporters. “He was the first person I believe in this league in NBA history to be a star in their role. I remembering saying that exact quote – “star in your role” – when were one those runs in Cleveland, making those Championship runs. He was the definition of being a star in your role, and that was something I wanted to embody myself and in my game. I remember in the playoffs I used to watch his clips for like 5 minutes before every playoff game.
I’d never go as far as comparing Thompson to the Bulls Legend, especially after one game, but his love for Rodman gives us an even better idea of the player this Bulls team signed. He wants to do the dirty work, and he wants to win. I’d say he’s off to a good start.
Catch Thompson’s full postgame press conference below:
LIVE: Tristan Thompson media availability after tonight’s win against the Hawks https://t.co/Fd9aJU9ATD
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 25, 2022
This is everything! pic.twitter.com/VBnqC0HOwf
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 25, 2022