Cleveland Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson is set to become a restricted free agent… and LeBron James wants him to stay.
The 24-year-old turned down a reported four-year, $52 million contract extension offer in October before the season started. He then went on to have a solid season, averaging 8.5 points while shooting a career-high 54.7 percent from the field, alongside 8.0 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game… and also finished fifth in NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting.
With Thompson scheduled for free agency, James is lobbying to keep him in Cleveland, singing his praises.
“This guy is 24 years old. He’s played in 340-plus straight games, and he’s gotten better every single season,” James said, according to ESPN. “It’s almost like what more can you ask out of a guy, even though we ask for more out of him.
“He plays his heart out every single night, and he has zero sense of entitlement in this league,” he continued. “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.”
After hearing of James’ comments, Thompson says he is flattered.
“I appreciate the compliment, if that’s a compliment, from LeBron,” Thompson said. “I’m just here to work, to just come into work and do what the team asks of me — whether it’s on the court, off the court, in the community — and just be a professional.”
In addition to his regular-season performance, he’s also stepped up in the playoffs by filling for the injured Kevin Love, averaging 8.9 points on 57.5 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 34.6 minutes per game.
Thompson was drafted by Cleveland with the No. 4 pick in 2011.