LeBron James wields an unprecedented amount of power within the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So, when James says the Cavaliers need to re-sign Tristan Thompson — the fifth-year power forward lingering in free agency — the Cavaliers are listening.
In an interview with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, James said he was happy with the Cavs’ offseason, but bringing back Thompson remains their next order of business.
“Our No. 1 objective right now is to sign Tristan. He’s a huge part of our team. Short term and long term he makes our team more dangerous … Things need to be worked out from his side and the Cavs, but we need him back. I think our front office has done a great job this summer. The next step is to get Tristan done.”
Windhorst reported earlier in August that six weeks after free agency hit, Thompson and the Cavs were in a contentious standoff over Thompson’s next contract. Early in free agency, it was reported that Thompson was nearing a five-year, $US80 million deal with the Cavs.
Reports then surfaced that Thompson was considering taking the qualifying offer — a one-year deal worth about $US6.8 million — to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, when the Cavs could no longer match any offer he receives. His agent said if this is the option Thompson takes, it will be his last season in Cleveland.
Now, with LeBron once again trumpeting Thompson’s value (he did the same during the playoffs, saying Thompson should be a Cav “for life”), it puts pressure on the Cavaliers to bend to Thompson’s demands.
Many in the NBA world feel that one of the conditions of LeBron’s return to Cleveland was that they build around him as he sees fit. That means going after who LeBron wants and sparing no expense to build a contender around him.
Last season, the grouping of LeBron-Kyrie Irving-Kevin Love proved to be successful once they warmed up. When Thompson was added to that group, they were the second-best foursome in the NBA offensively and overall, outscoring the opposition by 21.0 points per 100 possessions when those four were on the court together.
The Cavs, even if they gave Thompson an $US80 million contract, averaging $US16 million per season, are going to shoot into the luxury tax at near-historic levels. But LeBron — he who will continuously signs one-year contracts to increase his earning power and keep pressure on the front office — gives Cleveland’s management the decision to pay the steep fees for a contender or risk angering LeBron by letting his buddy walk in free agency.
This doesn’t mean the Cavs will give Thompson a max. contract, but with LeBron now speaking up twice about Thompson’s value, it pushes both sides toward finding an agreeable long-term deal.
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