Richard Jefferson says he’s only mean to former Cavs teammates after destroying Tristan Thompson on ESPN

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Jefferson defended his takedown of Tristan Thompson on ESPN by saying he’s only that harsh to his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates.

Thompson was on ESPN with Jefferson to analyze the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets. Jefferson teased Thompson regarding his defense for the Los Angeles Lakers against Nuggets star Nikola Jokic during the Western Conference Finals.

“Failure can be as much of a lesson, and so we are here with someone that failed against Jokic and guarding him,” Jefferson said. “… You wouldn’t be here if you succeeded.”

Jokic averaged 27.8 points per game in the Western Conference Finals as the Nuggets swept the Lakers. Thompson played only 3.6 minutes per game in the series, so the blame should not fall on him. But he defended himself against Jefferson by saying basketball is a team sport and players win together and lose together.

Thompson worked out with the Lakers in March and signed with them in April on the final day of the regular season. He was brought on in part because of his veteran knowledge and positive attitude.

“Whenever you’re adding a guy late season, it’s about high character and someone that can mesh a locker room,” Thompson told The Athletic. “Someone that’s not going to be a black plague or bring the morale down.”

Jefferson and Thompson were Cavaliers teammates for two seasons from 2015 to 2017. Thompson played for Cleveland from 2011 to 2020.

Thompson compared his situation with the Lakers to his time with the Cavaliers when they signed veteran Dahntay Jones on the last day of the 2015-16 regular season. Cleveland went on to win the 2016 NBA championship.

This season, Thompson worked with ESPN while waiting for another NBA opportunity and said he has a goal of becoming the next Michael Strahan in his television career. Jefferson joined ESPN in 2019 and has become one of its high-profile NBA analysts.

The Heat and Nuggets open the NBA Finals on Thursday night in Denver. Miami advanced by defeating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to avoid becoming the first NBA team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games.

This season, the Cavaliers qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and were eliminated by the New York Knicks in a five-game, first-round series. Cleveland was led by Donovan Mitchell, who recently said his season was worthy of an All-NBA First Team selection.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.