The unquestioned leader of the Cavaliers (and best basketball player on the planet) is LeBron James, but the breakout player for the Cavs in this year’s playoffs might be Tristan Thompson.
Thompson, a power forward/center, was relegated to sixth man duty when Cleveland traded for Kevin Love in the offseason. But he has been a revelation in the postseason since Love was injured late in a first-round sweep of the Celtics. In the Cavs’ past seven games — all wins — Thompson is averaging a double-double while logging heavy minutes and contributing key plays late in games.
James is decidedly on Team Thompson, in part because of those contributions and perhaps in part because they share an agent. Thompson reportedly turned down a four-year, $52 million deal this past offseason. After his huge Game 3 against Atlanta, LeBron said this about him:
“Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career. … This guy is 24 years old. He’s played in 340-plus straight games, and he’s gotten better every single season. It’s almost like what more can you ask out of a guy, even though we ask for more out of him.”
If LeBron wants Thompson, he’ll probably get Thompson … but it’s also hard to believe there is room for all the big men the Cavs have collected. Thompson will get big money. Center Anderson Varejao, also injured this year, is due more than $9 million each of the next two seasons. The Cavs also have a team option on Timofey Mozgov, for whom they traded Denver two future first round picks (one from OKC and one from Memphis, so the picks could be decent at some point).
So where does that leave Love? Well, he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent or he can stay with the Cavs and be paid for one more season at more than $16 million for the year. He has said he doesn’t intend to opt out, but his less-than-perfect relationship with LeBron combined with his injury and Thompson’s emergence could cause him to rethink that position.
If Love opts out, it’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers just letting him walk after giving away Andrew Wiggins in a trade for him, but if they win a title without him … well, it gets easier to imagine life without him — particularly if life with Thompson makes more sense and is coveted by LeBron.
It took 3 minutes and 15 seconds for reporters to get around to the one Viking absent from this week’s voluntary OTAs at Winter Park.
That’s 195 seconds from the start of coach Mike Zimmer’s post-practice press conference to someone asking if Zimmer is concerned about running back Adrian Peterson’s absence among the 89 other Vikings who did show up.
“No,” Zimmer said. “I’m not concerned.”
Zimmer also disputed a report that Peterson told him before this week’s OTAs that he wouldn’t be here.
“That is completely false,” Zimmer said. “So I know there are a lot of things that are out there. I don’t know when he’s coming. And so we’ll just leave it at that.”
Zimmer said he hasn’t talked to Peterson recently. As for whether people are making too much about his decision to skip this week’s OTAs, well, Zimmer doesn’t really hasn’t given it much thought.
“You all have jobs to do and I understand,” Zimmer said. “So it’s more about … he has missed a lot of OTAs over the course of his career. I’m not worried about it. I got 89 guys out here that I’m coaching and trying to get better. So it is what it is.”
Asked if it was discouraging that Peterson has created a negative vibe by not speaking kindly of the Vikings, Zimmer quickly got to the bottom line:
“It’s really not my place to figure out what he’s not saying publicly or what anybody else is saying,” he said. “It’s more about, really, these guys who are out here. Adrian, he’s really got two choices. He can either play for us or he cannot play. He’s not going to play for anybody else. That’s just the way it’s going to be. “
When the Vikings opened up this morning’s organized team activity to the media, we got our first look at the team’s revamped offensive line.
While right tackle Phil Loadholt was limited to individual drills as he works his way back from a torn pectoral, guard Brandon Fusco has recovered from his torn pectoral enough to line up with the first team.
And during this first week of OTAs, he has been lining up at a new spot.
Fusco was at left guard today, sandwiched between left tackle Matt Kalil and center John Sullivan. Rookie T.J. Clemmings was at Fusco’s old right guard spot next to Mike Harris, who is keeping the right tackle position warm for Loadholt.
So why was Fusco moved from right guard to left?
While conceding that playing Fusco next to Kalil should help out Kalil, head coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings made the switch mostly for Clemmings, who played right tackle in college.
“It was really about putting him over there, putting Clemmings on the right side and making it easier for him as opposed to moving over to the other side,” Zimmer said. “We know that Fusco can always move back if we plug somebody else in at left guard.”
Zimmer said the plan for now is to keep Fusco at left guard and Clemmings, a fourth-round pick this spring, at right guard. But as Zimmer said, that is subject to change if the reconfigured line isn’t working out this spring.
“We want to leave guys alone,” he said. “We don’t want to move them all around all over the place. So we’re going to leave him there for right now.”
Remember when the Star Tribune’s own Phil Miller, on the day Ervin Santana was suspended 80 games for steroid use, tweeted that the suspension also meant he was ineligible for postseason play?
Many of us had a good laugh at what seemed like gallows humor. A team that had lost 92 games each of the past four seasons would never have to worry about that anyway, right? A sample tweet back at Miller, which is reflective of the many sent, read like this:
@MillerStrib Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Postseason play. Good one, Phil.
— J.S. Smith (@edgehatfield) April 3, 2015
Now: We are a long way from the finish line of this season. But after 45 games and a 27-18 Twins record, can we at least say that the notion of a postseason ban for Santana — signed in the offseason to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and someone who almost certainly would be in a playoff rotation if pitching well — is no longer a joke?
The Twins are on pace for 97 wins this year, which would almost certainly be good enough to make the postsason. Even if the Twins cool off their current pace — and since it is built largely on clutch performances, they are likely to regress at least a little at some point — they’ve banked 27 wins in 45 games.
Last year’s Wild Card winners in the majors — remember, there are four of them total, two in each league — won 88, 88, 88 and 89 games respectively last year.
Let’s say 88 wins was good enough to get into the playoffs this season. That means the Twins would need to go 61-56 in their final 117 games to make the postseason. Again, that’s a much better pace than they’ve been on any of the past four seasons … but it also means that some regression from their current pace would still put them on track to make the playoffs.
And at that point, one of their presumed top pitchers would be ineligible. You might say, “Who needs Santana?” at this point because the rotation has been so much better than in recent years (particularly lately). But much can happen in the next 35 games before Santana’s 80 games are up. He could be a sight for sore eyes in early July … only to return to obscurity if indeed the Twins can keep playing in October.
That would fall under the category of “good problem to have” since it meant the Twins made the playoffs, period, after so many awful seasons. But it would potentially be a blow to their chances of going any further.