“We took care of business, and I’m glad to be back with my family and teammates and ready to get the season started,” Thompson said.
The fifth-year veteran was absent for more than three weeks during his contract holdout, spending the time working out in Miami.
However, the 24-year-old’s conditioning was complimented by the team, which could be important for the Cavs in the early going as Thompson is thrust into the rotation while Kevin Love shakes off the rust following his left shoulder injury, Timofey Mozgov manages pain in his right knee stemming from an offseason scope and Anderson Varejao continues to work back into shape after surgery on a torn Achilles tendon.
“He and his agents and staff should be really given a great deal of credit for the shape he’s in right now,” said Cavaliers general manager David Griffin. “They did a great job when he was not here. You never want somebody to miss part of camp, but if somebody is going to do it, you want it to be a person and a competitor like Tristan because he’s going to take care of business.”
The timing of Thompson’s deal will allow him to keep his consecutive games streak, currently at 288, intact. It’s the second longest streak in the league behind DeAndre Jordan‘s 322.
But Thompson insisted he was prepared to miss regular-season games and continue his holdout if necessary.
“I love playing basketball,” he said. “That’s my love and my passion, but with this business, there comes a business side of it. For me, that’s how I approach it. Business is business, and my approach is if the deal gets done before the season, that’s great. If not, so be it.”
With Thompson now in the fold, the Cavs were successful in retaining all seven free agents from last year’s Finals team whom they had an interest in bringing back.
“I think everybody has sort of rallied around the idea of unfinished business,” said Griffin. “Obviously LeBron is the best recruiter you can possibly have, so I think a great deal of that was people recognizing they get to spend the best years of their prime with the best player in the league.”
Thompson’s signing also means that, including salaries and tax, the Cavs are likely to spend more than $170 million on this season’s roster, the second-largest payroll in league history behind the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets. The Nets spent $197 million that season, including a record $90.5 million in tax.
“I think our owner is committed to winning, and it’s a sign that he’ll do anything to help us go out there and perform,” said LeBron James. “It’s not guaranteed, you know, but as a franchise and as a leader of the team I’m going to get my guys ready and prepare us to compete every night. That’s what it’s about.
“I’m not comparing us to the New York Yankees, because we’re not, we’re so nowhere near compared to the New York Yankees, but they have one of the highest payrolls every year. They don’t win it every year, but that’s what they believe in. They believe in going out there and getting the best talent that can play. … When you have an ownership group that believes [in doing whatever] it’s going to take, then money is not an object.”
Cavs principal owner Dan Gilbert joked at a season-ticket holder event this week that he gave team management an “unlimited budget” this offseason and “they exceeded it.”
“I think what Dan does is challenge us in ways,” Griffin said after comically patting himself on the back when a reporter relayed Gilbert’s quote. “Dan almost dares us to believe that we can spend more money and make it work. He’s a really interesting owner in that way. He’s not looking at this as an actuary might. He’s looking at this as, ‘What’s best for us to win games?’
“And he’s done that in every part of this business, from the building we’re standing in right now to what he does for us from the standpoint of the bandwidth he gives us financially in the weight room and the training room. He invests in this process at every level all the time. And so the Tristan signing is just more evidence of that. I’m really proud of the fact that we found a way to exceed an unlimited budget. That’s difficult to do. But I am. I’m just grateful that they wanted to keep the group together.”
Thompson’s signing brings the Cavs’ roster to 14 players on guaranteed contracts. Cleveland announced that it had waived Austin Daye, Jack Cooley, Dionte Christmas and D.J. Stephens on Friday, bringing its training camp roster to 16, with invitees Jared Cunningham and Quinn Cook remaining. An NBA team can carry a maximum of 15 players in the regular season.