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How Tristan Thompson Is Trying to ‘Mimic’ LeBron’s Role in Cleveland

LeBron James and Tristan Thompson Cavs

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson is currently in the position of being the leader of an injury-plagued team that no longer has LeBron James. His four years with James has given him the tools to take over that role that used to be held by James.

Jason Lloyd of The Athletic looked at Thompson’s early-season performance and compared it favorably to what happened after James left in 2010. That disastrous campaign had no one taking the leadership reins, leading to the first of four miserable seasons.

In contrast to that time, Lloyd pointed out the steps that Thompson has taken to serve as a role model for younger teammates:

“He paid close attention to James’ time in Cleveland and is now trying to mimic it. He shows up early and stays late like LeBron used to, he’s more vocal in film sessions and he ripped teammates early this season for not following defensive schemes.”

Thompson has been preparing for this moment since the summer of 2014. That was when James returned to Cleveland and Thompson received advice from then-Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale.

Fizdale, who now serves as head coach of the New York Knicks, looked beyond James’ time with the Cavaliers to impart this wisdom to Thompson:

“Once he (James) leaves, you’ve got to show everyone what he’s taught you.”

Despite the Cavaliers starting this season with a 2-12 record, Thompson is keeping a positive frame of mind about the current situation.

“For me and my career, this is a great experience for me. I think this is the next step that I needed,” Thompson said. “I’m embracing it. Obviously it’s not the record we want, but I think it’s time for me to evolve as a player and show everyone what I can do. Not just on the court but in terms of leadership and conducting myself the right way. This is a great opportunity for me.”

On the court, Thompson looks more like the player he was prior to last year. That was when injuries limited him to 53 games. In 14 games this season, he’s averaging 10.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. That rebounding average was aided by his cleaning the glass for 21 boards in Tuesday night’s win over Charlotte.

Cavaliers head coach Larry Drew has noticed the improvement in Thompson’s play and his embracing of the leadership aspect.

“Everybody knows when LeBron was here he was our leader. Now that he’s gone, who’s going to take the bull by the horns?” Larry Drew said. “I think Tristan has taken a step back and he’s probably looked in the mirror and said, ‘I’ve been here, I’ve won a championship, maybe it’s me.’ It looks like that’s his approach as far as the examples he’s been setting, particularly in practice.”

Thompson gives James full credit for preparing him for this role:

“LeBron prepared me, Swish (J.R. Smith) and K-Love (Kevin Love) for whatever else comes our way in our career and we give him a lot of praise for that. He probably didn’t even know he did that. But I took it that he was molding his guys to get them prepared for the next chapter in their life.”

The Cavaliers will be off until Monday, when they travel to Detroit. However, Thompson will be able to thank James in person next Wednesday, when the 16-year veteran comes to Cleveland with the Los Angeles Lakers to take on the Cavs.

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