How Tristan Thompson Is Holding the Cleveland Cavaliers Hostage

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Now that the seemingly never-ending saga of Tristan Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers has taken a new twist, the question now becomes whether or not Thompson is exploiting the situation to the detriment of the team.

With the Oct. 1 deadline for accepting a qualifying offer now having passed, Thompson has officially become a holdout who has yet to report to the team’s training camp that began on Tuesday,

By some early reports three months ago, Thompson was set to sign a five-year, $80 million deal. That never transpired and was followed by bickering from Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, about how Thompson would sign a max deal (worth $94 million) only. Otherwise, he would take the $6.9 million qualifying offer from the team and become an unrestricted free agent next July.

None of that has happened yet, and with Thompson’s continued absence from the team’s training camp, it now appears that he’s looking to take advantage of the pressure on owner Dan Gilbert to win an NBA championship

Thompson knows that he’s a valuable component to the overall team, but exactly how much is open to question. For example, he’s known almost exclusively for his rebounding prowess, since both his offensive output and free throw shooting are average at best. Even the $80 million the Cavaliers are currently offering is seen by many as too much to pay.

Still, without Thompson as a regular member of the lineup, it not only leaves a hole that has to be filled by Cleveland, but has the potential to damage team chemistry. More importantly, it may also alienate likely free agent LeBron James, who had campaigned for the Cavs to sign Thompson and shares Paul as an agent.

Not having Thompson might magnify other issues that Cleveland faces in the early going with the absences of guards Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. That’s coupled with returns from injury by Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao.

Should this reach into the regular season and the Cavs get off to a slow start, Thompson’s camp will be able to twist the screws a little tighter. There’s no indication that he’ll wait that long before coming back to the court, but there was no prior indication that he would be holding out, either

Cavaliers head coach David Blatt is doing the only thing he can do by simply forging ahead, telling Tom Withers of the Associated Press:

“We got a veteran group,” Blatt said. “We got a very professional group of guys going about their business and going about their jobs the way that they should. The team is working and we are going to continue to do so. We’re just back at it. We’ve got to focus on the now and here and that’s what we’re doing.”

If and when he does report, Thompson will no doubt hear the boos from a Cleveland fan base starved for an NBA title. Whether or not those hunger pangs are enough to make Gilbert and David Griffin change their stance remains to be seen, but Thompson’s flexibility off the court might be the difference between an NBA title and another frustrating offseason in 2016.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.