Thompson Strives to Be the Marcus Smart of Boston's Frontcourt
BOSTON – If you’re a fan of what Marcus Smart has brought to Boston Celtics over the last six seasons, then trust us when we say that you are about to become a fan of his new teammate, Tristan Thompson.
Energetic, fearless, communicative, physical, and tenacious, Thompson brings the same intangible qualities to the court as Smart. The main difference is that Thompson is a 6-foot-9, 254-pound version of Boston’s beloved All-Defensive First-Team guard.
During his introductory press conference Thursday morning, Thompson touched upon Smart’s toughness and passion, making it clear that he wants to provide the exact same type of energy for the Celtics whenever he’s on the court.
“I think Smart is a bulldog and has done a great job since he has come here on Day 1 of not backing down against anyone,” said the 29-year-old center. “I think he's done that awesomely at the guard position, and I think for me, at the big position, it's bringing that same energy.”
The Celtics are familiar with how impactful Thompson’s energy can be, having faced off against him and the Cleveland Cavaliers in several big games over the last nine seasons. He was always a frontcourt nightmare to deal with, but that will no longer be an issue now that he can impose his will in Boston’s favor.
“Playing against (the Celtics), you guys saw me enough to see how I play, and I'm going to play the exact same way,” said Thompson, who has averaged a double-double in points and rebounds during each of the last two seasons. “When I was a Cleveland Cavalier, playing against you guys in the regular season or postseason, I'm going to bring the same grittiness and toughness.”
Such grit and toughness will come particularly in handy when facing off against elite bigs, such as Miami center Bam Adebayo, who played a major role in eliminating Boston from the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals.
“You saw it in the Miami series, the bigs were playing at a high level and playing well,” said Thompson. “So for me, [my job is] to come in there and slow those guys down and make it tough for them.”
Smart often took that job upon himself, despite often facing a massive height disadvantage, which would sometimes wear him down physically. Adding Thompson will help to alleviate much of that pressure off of Smart’s shoulders.
“It allows me not to guard so many of those bigger guys where I exert so much energy battling with those guys, and I can battle more with those guards and really conserve that energy on that end,” Smart said. “But definitely, having somebody like Tristan who comes in and brings that energy, who really, really makes your team better and is very good at what he does and doesn’t back down from anybody – so you have another player like that, you have another player like me, who has that same intensity and that competitive nature.”
After speaking with coach Brad Stevens, Thompson understands exactly how the Celtics want him to utilize such intensity. Fortunately for him, he won’t have to change much, if anything at all, in his approach.
“I think my energy is going to ignite the team, and that's what he was saying to me,” the 2016 NBA champion said of his conversation with Stevens. “That I’ve gotta be the motor that jump-starts the team to get going. I've always had that role and I've been like that since day one. So coming in, I want to play harder than the bigs that I'm going against. Whoever I'm playing against, play harder than them and that's contagious.
“I think that everyone around the league knows how valuable that is. Just being myself, I think that's worked out pretty well for me, and I think for this ball club, it can help them a lot.”
Having a frontcourt version of Smart should certainly provide this Celtics team plenty of help.