Signed on the final day of the regular season, few would have anticipated Tristan Thompson having any role larger than the one he filled admirably through the entirety of the playoffs — serving as a chemistry guy on the bench that provides advice to the team as their postseason run continued.
When he stepped onto the court in the second quarter on Monday, a hint of desperation filled the air, but Thompson’s performance proved it to be a far more tactical approach than a desperate one as he proved to actually be a viable alternative for the Lakers in his 10 minutes.
Thompson finished the game with just four points and a rebound, but it was the effort and the intensity he played with that set a tone. It was more than admirable from Thompson, who had not played any legitimate rotation minutes, to step in and offer the Lakers a spark.
“I think the ‘stay ready’ runs were great for a lot of guys on our team,” Thompson said during his exit interview on Monday. “I think it was great for, obviously, with Lonnie, you saw what he was able to do in the Golden State series and just getting himself back in the rotation and playing at a high level for us off the bench, which we needed in the playoffs.
“And then, for myself, just staying ready for whatever opportunity comes and last night, my number was called and I just wanted to go out there and compete and just play my game. I was just playing hard and competing and being a pest on both ends and, hopefully, I was able to do that. Of course, I wish it led to a victory so maybe I should have been more of a pest. A bigger pest.”
Thompson was only a Laker for six weeks, but they were the six most important weeks of the team’s season. His role was one behind the scenes, but that doesn’t lessen its importance.
There’s value in having an experienced voice on the bench. The Lakers saw that with their last title-contending team in Jared Dudley. It’s a role they haven’t truly replaced since his departure and a role that Thompson is open to filling moving forward.
“I’d love to come back,” Thompson said. “I’d love to be here for training camp. I’d love to be part of what we’re being here. It’s definitely a role that I embrace. At the end of the day, I’m all about winning. Winning’s No. 1. Winning trumps everything, so I’m about winning and how I can help a team. Whether it’s on the sidelines, whether it’s in the ‘stay ready’ runs, whether it’s being in the game, I’m two feet in for whatever the team needs.
“Hopefully, I’m able to do that again for this team next year because I really loved being here and love what they’re building. Hopefully, we can get something done.”
If the Lakers move forward with the bulk of their current roster, something that president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka sounds interested in doing, then there’s a role for Thompson — or someone like him — on the roster. And considering how seamlessly he appeared to fit with the roster this postseason, it could be a perfect match between the two.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.