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An effusive Tristan Thompson ready to help Bulls take the next step

Tristan Thompson was impressive in his media session on Wednesday and the Bulls hope his play matches his high hopes for this team.

NBA February transactions:

Philadelphia 76ers acquire James Harden. Number of NBA championships—0

Brooklyn Nets acquire Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond. Number of NBA championships—0

Bulls acquire Tristan Thompson. Number of NBA championships—1 (plus three other NBA Finals appearances)

Bulls win?

"At this point in my career if I can...help this team reach some of their goals this season, which I know is definitely the playoffs and beyond," Thompson said Wednesday in his first Bulls media appearance. "I can be part of that and help them out with all I bring to the table.

"I just play hard," said Thompson. "Kind of like how the old-school bigs played, punch in that clock, be a workhorse, do whatever it takes to win, whether it's set screens, dive for loose balls, finish around the rim. Whatever my team needs to win, that's all that matters. So I think I'll mesh pretty well with this group. It's an area that this team can definitely (use) with my energy each and every night. So I'm excited."

If the 30-year-old Thompson performs on the court as impressively as he did off Wednesday, the Bulls will also be smiling.

Tristan Thompson at Bulls practice.

"He's really, really personable, easy to talk to," agreed Bulls coach Billy Donovan. "I've known him, I recruited him, I've watched him play. He's just got a really good way about him. He's very approachable. He's really well spoken. He's incredibly experienced. He is a guy that takes time to communicate. He makes it very easy to get to know him."

And if Thompson is that impressive when he plays....

Thompson has had an excellent career, in his 11th season primarily as a physical, support player for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their run with LeBron James to four Finals and the 2016 NBA title. Been there, done that. Always good to have someone like that around even if he's lately been a journeymen with the Bulls his fifth team in the last three seasons.

Thompson once was the iron man of the NBA with a streak of 447 straight games played, Believe-it-or-Not stuff in this NBA.

He had some foot injuries in the 2018 and 2019 seasons and then when his contract expired he signed with the Celtics and was traded to the Kings and earlier this month to the Pacers, from whom he secured a buyout to sign with the Bulls.

Donovan indicated once Thompson adapts he'll probably be backup center for Nikola Vucevic, seemingly moving into a role played periodically by Tony Bradley. A question that has been raised around the Bulls this season has been the lack of size with their return to play Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks.

Thompson at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds adds that level of bulk and toughness, if not necessarily altitude. Donovan probably will stay with Javonte Green at starting power forward for his activity and speed. Thompson is more of a physical presence who could do some banging with the bigger players in the conference, like Joel Embiid, Jarrett Allen and Bobby Portis or now Serge Ibaka with the Bucks.

Tristan Thompson will help the Bulls matchup with the physical bigs in the Eastern Conference.

"He's really smart and a bright player and he's been around for a while," Donovan pointed out. "I don't know how much he and Vooch would play together, but certainly the size and the physicality and the presence of him in that second unit is gonna really help. He has been a really good rim protector, he's been a really, really good rebounder, he's been a really good pick-and-roll defender, he's been a good screener and roller. He does what he does at a really high level."

Including touching all the bases if we can switch metaphors for a bit.

Thompson, a native of Canada, referenced pretty much everything Chicago in his 10-minute session with reporters:

Deep dish pizza. Doesn't like it.

Michael Jordan's midrange shooting. Likes it as a model DeMar DeRozan used, who the later, by the way, Thompson said should be the league's MVP.

Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. Enjoyed competing against those high level Bulls teams.

United Center fans. Looking forward to the high energy he always saw in the arena playing against the Bulls.

Talk about your home runs.

"I've been part of championship-level teams, won a championship, played with Hall-of-Fame players and took stuff that I learned from them, and I think it's only fair and right in this game of basketball, you've gotta pay it forward," Thompson explained. "I was fortunate to spend time with one of the greatest players, and he taught me a lot. So it's only right that I share that wisdom to the younger generation. I'm an outspoken person, so I'm just gonna speak. The more honest and the more transparent we are with each other as a ball club, especially with a team that's trying to make a deep run, it can only benefit us."

NBA players in this era, especially because of the AAU games they play before coming into the NBA, tend to know one another more so the players from previous eras. But Thompson sounded like he's been with these Bulls for years.

Tristan Thompson's introductory press conference.

"One of my really good friends, Deebo (DeRozan), who I think is the league MVP right now, we've known each other for a long time," said Thompson. "What he's been able to do with Zach (LaVine) out, with Zo (Lonzo Ball) out, with AC (Alex Caruso) out; Vooch was out for a little bit, too. For him to be able to hold the fort down and keep that ship riding high, that's what an MVP does."

Such a good friend there even was room for a playful dig.

"Before we used to play in Toronto and I sent him to Cancun early, but now we can be with him on the same team," Thompson said about the Raptors frequent playoff losses to Cleveland and Thompson (LeBron, too).


"There's a lot of potential here (Chicago). To win a championship, (you first have to) put yourself in a position to be a Final Four team," Thompson said about that first big step.

"This team has a lot of pieces. We've got guards that can play at a high level. Zach, he's one of the smoothest guards we've got in our league, can score effortlessly. Zo, who's a walking triple-double every other night. DeMar, he's mastered the midrange, like another guy that used to play here a long time ago. Vooch, a matchup problem for bigs, pick-and-pop, get it on the block, right shoulder. Left shoulder. Myself, energy guy, do things it takes to win. Same thing as Javonte Green. Coby White, he's a firecracker off the bench that can light up the scoreboard quickly.

"All those pieces are what you need to be one of the last teams dancing. The key is gonna be can we put it all together, and I think it's gonna start with defense for us. Coach has been emphasizing that, and he shows right now that our team defense is 19th, and the stats show that teams that play in June are always top 10 in defense. So that's an area that we want to get better at. And hopefully as we have guys coming back and guys getting more familiar with rotations and defensive assignments we'll be able to improve."

Tristan Thompson, Player Development Coordiator Taurean Green and DeMar DeRozan.

And then Thompson went really big.

"Coach Donovan has been seeing me play since back in 9th grade, and he'll probably tell you since then I was always a kid that's gonna play hard each and every night and just play with a high motor and high energy," said Thompson. "He wants me to do the same thing when I'm here, bring my veteran leadership and what I've been through and my veteran mind and presence to help these guys grow and help them put in position where we can be very successful.

"(Cavs coach) Mike Brown always told me you want to be a player that coach can plug in any scenario," Thompson said. "I feel like I've made a niche for myself in this league by being one of those guys you can just plug in there and go out and play."

Dramatic pause...

"Just like Dennis Rodman; do the same thing."

Boom! Grand slam!