Tristan Thompson made a major impact in his lone season with the Texas Longhorns, winning Big 12 freshman of the year honors while averaging 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Today, Thompson is one of three lifetime Longhorns remaining in this year's NBA playoffs. As he and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for the eastern conference finals against the Toronto Raptors, he found time for a quick interview with the Longhorn Network.
"We're undefeated in the playoffs and we're everyone's favorite. Nothing much has changed, it's just a long season," Thompson says. "Since day one everyone has been about the same thing, which is winning and competing for a championship."
LeBron James has likened Thompson's role (on the court, not off) with Cleveland to that of Dennis Rodman with the 1990s Chicago Bulls.
Thompson likes the comparison, calling it "an honor." He admires the Hall of Famer's work ethic and the way Rodman did things that may not show up on the scoreboard but still change the game.
Thompson was then asked about big defensive plays he made in game three against the Hawks that preserved a win. He earned his way back into the starting lineup right before the playoffs started, and Cleveland is 33-9 this year with him as a starter.
"I told our coach since day one, 'whatever you want me to do, coach, I'm going to do,' because at the end of the day it's about winning," Thompson says. "That's what trumps everything. Whether it's me starting or coming off the bench and being a star, it's about whatever it takes to win."
The Cavaliers came up short against the Golden State Warriors last year while battling injuries. Thompson was asked why this year might be different.
"Every year teams get better, teams make adjustments," says Thompson. "For us, we made a trade last year where we got Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Last year we were down a couple of guys without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two of our all-stars and two very important players for our team. It does change the dynamic and we definitely had guys play different roles. If we do play the Warriors this year it'll definitely be a fun matchup. You've got to give them credit for the season they've had, but for us, we will approach it game by game and we've got to do whatever it takes to win."
Thompson is already a big Shaka Smart fan, and says the 'Horns have a bright future.
"Coach Smart was fantastic (last season)," says Thompson. "He did a great job, especially meshing the younger guys and the veterans together. They're competing and they won a lot of big games... It's a great time to be a Longhorns fan."