As Tristan Thompson engaged in his first media session with Boston reporters on Thursday, we found it interesting how he detailed the full-court press the Celtics put on him.
There were calls from Danny Ainge and Kemba Walker at the start of free agency. Thompson also had previous relationships with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. When much of the Celtics' fan base was shouting at each other about the merits of Myles Turner, Boston brass and the core of the team was locked in on a big man they were more certain could help them achieve their championship goals.
"I’ve had relationships with all these guys and ... it felt like I was wanted,” said Thompson. “It felt like they really wanted me to be a part of what they’re trying to accomplish. It was a pretty easy decision.”
It’s not hard to see that Thompson was the guy that excited Boston’s stars. Remember that the Celtics’ core of Walker, Tatum, Brown, and Marcus Smart played in the FIBA tournament with Myles Turner. If those guys really wanted him as Boston’s big man, they could have stressed that to Ainge.
That the Celtics seemed lukewarm on anything that Indiana could offer seems to hammer home the notion that they simply liked the idea of Thompson at $9 million per season a lot better than Turner at $18 million.
And Thompson’s arrival appears to have softened the departure of Gordon Hayward. Boston’s ceiling might not be quite as high without Hayward but the team sounds hopeful that Thompson can help them with their lofty goals.
Once a part of the Cleveland roadblock that twice denied Boston in the East finals in 2017 and 2018, Thompson is in Boston now with hopes that he can provide championship-caliber leadership and get the Celtics over that hump.
He’s going to endear himself with his play on the court, especially his relentless efforts on the glass and his toughness. And he said all the right things on Thursday about his new team.
"Coach always told me, usually the team that you have a lot of success against or beat up against a lot of years in the playoffs, they usually want you to join their side when you’re available or when you become a free agent,” said Thompson. "So I’ve always heard rumblings about the Celtics' interest in me.
"I’ve had a good relationship with Jaylen -- I’ve known Jaylen since he first got drafted. And JT, we’ve talked, and he’s reached out to me after the deadline, and all that stuff, about coming to join. So when free agency started ... Mr. Ainge called me around when I was able to get those phone calls and he told me how much he loves my game and how much I could be a great piece to this team and a missing piece to what they’re trying to accomplish. And the fact that Kemba reached out to me, and I’ve known Kemba since we both played in high school when he was at Rice and I was at St. Benedict’s."
One of the big talking points after the season was how Boston needed veteran leadership on a young roster. Watching Andre Iguodala come off the Miami bench to scorch Boston in a key postseason situation was a reminder of the value of ring-wearing veterans.
It only feels like Thompson has been in the league forever. He's only 29. And Thompson believes that there’s still room for him to develop his game (you can be sure Brad Stevens is going to send him to the Aron Baynes school of late-career 3-point development).
"I have a lot of room to grow and, you've seen the growth in my game every year and that's what I want to continue to do and continue to do here with the Celtics,” said Thompson. "I feel great. The time off, those five, six, seven months or however long it was, was my groundhog day. But I was on the court and in the weight room taking care of my body and getting prepared for this.
"I think that for me, I can bring a breath of fresh air, because these guys didn't have an offseason. For me, having a long offseason, bringing that extra juice to fire guys up.”
The Celtics needed a guy like Thompson. Thompson needed a team like Boston with a desire to again compete for championships.
It might just be the perfect fit.