Tristan Thompson: What’s Next?

Previously, Tristan Thompson said he was going to accept the Cavaliers qualifying offer of $6.8 million and then leave Cleveland next summer. The first part of that threat is a non-starter. Thompson didn’t take the qualifying offer. It expired at midnight last night. Now he sits at home and waits for the phone to ring. He and the Cavs can negotiate on a deal however they see fit. Officially, he is a holdout.

So, who exactly has the leverage now? Well, we know a few things while watching this play out at a snail’s pace.

The Money Is The Thing and So Is Cleveland: Thompson didn’t take the $6.8 million because he and his representatives see that as undervaluing the product. Ed Davis is a $6.8 million player, Tristan Thompson is not. Furthermore, by holding out for a more lucrative deal, Thompson is saying to all who will listen that he wants to stay in Cleveland. It was Thompson’s side who proposed a 3 year, $53 million dollar compromise. Despite his ridiculous bluff of a Cleveland self-exile that no one believed and that fell flat, Thompson’s not going to Toronto or anywhere else. The Tristan Thompson $18 million a year market just isn’t that deep. Thompson wants to be in training camp but at a price he thinks is commensurate with what he brings to the table. $6.8 million is vastly under-market. So he and Rich Paul wait for something better.

The Cavs Have the Leverage: The Cavs have been here before. During his free agency, Anderson Varejao missed a slew of games before a deal was struck in December. Sasha Pavlovic missed all of training camp as he waited for a better deal. So, the Cavs have time and experience on their side. They may want Tristan Thompson but they don’t need him. They have Varejao and Kevin Love and Timofey Mosgov. So they can lean back, exhale and offer what they want to offer, meaning they can lowball Thompson and create a narrative of the selfish, money grabbing, 10 point a game, thinks-he’s-better-than-he-is, money hungry athlete who chooses cash over winning a title. The question is, how committed are the Cavs to their point of view? Last season, the Phoenix Suns caved when faced with a Rich Paul negotiation and gave Eric Bledsoe everything. So far, the Cavs haven’t blinked in this stare down. They don’t have to.

Silent LeBron James: He is staying out of it. He could put pressure on Dan Gilbert but he won’t because his own negotiation is coming up next year. The possibility of a $40 million payday- a NBA record- looms in the distance for James. That said, it is all about the here and now for LeBron James, particularly with the Cavs second best defender (Iman Shumpert) out until January. James is dialed in to the team that is present at camp. Surrounding him are a whole bunch of front court players that can get him where he wants to go: the NBA Finals. Thompson’s problems are Thompson’s problems.

Thompson is still a Restricted Free Agent: Could Rich Paul peddle Thompson somewhere else? Yes. But, he won’t. Thompson is still a restricted free agent. The Cavs would have the opportunity to match any such offer. Or, they would have the opportunity to let Thompson walk. LeBron James may not be taking sides here but the last thing he wants is Thompson gone. The Cavs know that. Besides, no one has any money left. The contracts are all signed. New free agents can’t be moved until December. So Thompson in another uniform isn’t happening.

In the P.R. battle, the Cavs, fully aware Thompson wasn’t going to accept the qualifying offer, yesterday issued a statement that was more for the public as a way to create sides in this mess about the rich wanting to be richer:

“We fully expect that tomorrow he (Thompson) will be here in some form or fashion. We’re hopeful that he wants to move forward with his teammates in the same way that we want to have Tristan here. If we can come to some agreement, then we will.”

photo via llananba