By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For the last nine years, the Celtics were on the receiving end of everything Tristan Thompson brought to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The physical and energetic big man engaged in some incredible postseason battles against Boston, and his team always emerged as the victor.READ MORE: State Police Seek Men Who Broke Into Boston High Rise
Of course, having LeBron James on his side was a big part of that. But playing with one of the NBA’s GOATs (whom Thompson adamantly said was the GOAT when talking to Boston reporters on Thursday) gives him a much-needed veteran perspective to bring to this young Boston team.
Thompson has a ring from his nine-year career in Cleveland, serving as a key cog for the Cavs team that erased a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit to the Golden State Warriors in 2016. He knows what it takes to win, and he’s hoping that his experience — along with all that energy he brings on the floor — will help get the Celtics over the hump.
“They want to go to the promised land,” Thompson said of his new team. “If I can come and be a part of helping get them over the hump, that would be an honor.”
Boston’s frontcourt has never been one of the team’s strongpoints in recent years, and Thompson’s physicality is exactly what they’ve been missing. The Celtics made a full-court push for Thompson when free agency opened last month, with Danny Ainge calling him as soon as he could. Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum also reached out to Thompson to get him to Boston.
Now that he’s here, Thompson has only one objective: Be Tristan Thompson. He’s looking to bring some more “juice” to the team on the court, and be a strong voice in the locker room providing lots of veteran insight.
“Coach Stevens, me and him talked and he said everything I expecting him to say. Be myself, come out and share my wisdom – the good stuff and the bad stuff – to help these guys grow,” said Thompson. “On offense and defense, bring energy. I have to be the motor that jump-starts the team and get us going. I’ve always had the role and been like that since Day 1.READ MORE: Retirement Board Set To Consider Pension Petition For Officer Manny Familia's Family
“I’m going to play harder than whoever I’m playing against and that is contagious. Everyone around the league knows how valuable that is, so it’s just about being myself. This ballclub, I think that can help them a lot,” he added.
Think Marcus Smart — just bigger.
“Smart is a bulldog and has done a great job not backing down since Game 1. He’s done that at the guard position and I’ll bring the same at the big position. I’m going to play the exact same way you saw me playing with the Cavs against you in the playoffs.”
That’s great news for the Celtics, who struggled against Miami big man Bam Adebayo in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
“Miami’s bigs were playing at a high level, so my job is to come in and make it hard for them. Like Perk would say, ‘Lay that wood,'” joked Thompson.
The addition of Thompson could lead to some more conventional lineups for Stevens. It opens the possibility that the Celtics will actually go big a lot more than they have been, with Thompson sharing the floor with either Daniel Theis or Robert Williams, with Kemba, Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the wings. He’ll provide a gigantic boost to Boston’s offensive rebounding, with four of the 10 rebounds he averaged per game last year coming on the offensive end. Some of those bad Marcus Smart heaves may even turn into points for Boston thanks to Thompson’s ability to control the offensive glass.
Along with all of his wisdom in the locker room, Thompson may be exactly what the Celtics need to finally get back to the NBA Finals.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
“It’s very little, whether it’s a couple of possessions or a key stop that can get you to the Finals. Hopefully I can come in and be the difference maker of where they want to get to,” he said.