The Cavaliers were coming off a Friday loss to the Boston Celtics and were without the services of veteran forward Kevin Love, who sat out the game with a sore hip.
Yet, Thompson delivered a double-double performance with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while also offering consistent defensive play that led to the 94-88 victory.
“He was relentless,” Beilein said. “Protected the rim, had a couple of verticalities and he was the heart and soul of our team in many ways.”
Beilein is well aware that Thompson’s status with the team could change by February’s trade deadline, given the veteran’s upcoming expiring contract at the end of this season. However, for the time being, he’s making it known that Thompson’s on-court leadership has been invaluable.
“He has been a Cav his entire life and he has a lot of pride, so he’s working really hard to lead this young team and do the best he can,” Beilein said. “He’s been a warrior and has really helped us with the successes we’ve had and some of the tough losses we’ve had we wouldn’t be in it without him.”
In Thompson’s 31 games this season for the Cavaliers, he’s averaging 12.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The point and assist averages are career-highs for the player who the Cavs selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Since the Cavaliers are in their second season of a lengthy rebuilding project, the 28-year-old Thompson is a potentially valuable trading option.
While there are no current rumors about Thompson being dealt elsewhere, the Cavaliers surely don’t want to have Thompson simply walk at the end of the year and get nothing in return.
With regard to Beilein’s comments, they should further reinforce that the momentary blowup between Thompson and the head coach a few weeks ago in San Antonio has long been forgotten.
In that instance, Thompson’s anger was largely directed at teammate Collin Sexton’s shot selection.