I won’t bother burying the lead here: it’s all going to be okay.
Or, if not okay, then, at least, it will not be what it was before (which, I suppose, does open the door for “worse” as well as “better,” but let’s turn that frown into slightly-less-frown and put our faith – or our slightly-less-doom – in the “better” here). Just because Tristan Thompson is seeing minutes at his out-of-position, does not mean that he is a soon-t0-be-castoff like J. Jellybean Hickson was at this time last year (though we didn’t know it at the time).
The biggest thing Thompson has going for him is that he is a rookie. As such, he is under contract for, at least, three more years. And, while we have all grown to have fan-crushes on the Toronto Tornado, to a fan, no one is sitting here telling you that they expect Tristan Thompson to be a star. Some people think he will be really good, but most experts talk about him aiming for a 12Pt/10Reb/2Blk career … which, if you think of it, probably is attainable and probably would be just fine. The Hickson Promise, though, had us thinking bigger. He will forever go down as the player who – according to legend – Danny Ferry would not part with to bring a less-broken-than-now Amar’e Stoudamire to the Q to run with LeBron and Shaq (or, more accurately, to run with LeBron and wait for Shaq to catch up … eventually … in fact, in the fast break I’m running in my head they’re still waiting, waiting … waiting – ah, there’s Shaquille!) and even though the Suns dispute that they were ready to make that trade, there were games where the Hickson Promise would just rush to your head same as if you’d consumed an entire package of Peeps.
The problem was two-fold: we thought Jackie J. Hickson was better than he was and he thought he was too. I don’t think it was J. Jerry’s fault. It was clearly our fault. Our fault and our fault and our fault. When we as the collective fanbase buy in to a player so, we have learned, unrealistically, that player’s going to buy into himself just as much, if not more so. As Hickson’s role would change as Chris Grant and Byron Scott brought in players who could remember plays (although, the player that Hickson was swapped for caused a stir mid-season by admitting that he didn’t know all of the plays. That’s irony … or miragery … or just funny) and who would not look like they were playing Marco Polo on defense and who had that switch inside them capable of being flipped into the “Understanding the Nuances of Winning Basketball” position, Jabberjaw Jabberwocky Hickson would, no doubt, pout. By that point, he would believe he was a certain caliber of player and it would be the fans that, given time to have some buyers remorse, would think that notion exaggerated. By then, it would no longer be our fault that Hickson (I’m giving up the J’s for the rest of the post … I do have some sense of the limits of your patience) inflated his own value. It would be all on Hickson. Of course, it would be all on Hickson. We would not remember our role (or management’s role) in getting to this point. Just another deluded player that we were right about all along.
By then, though, we would also be paying Hickson about $12 million a year.
These are the types of decisions that should make us optimistic as fans of this franchise going forward. Chris Grant seems to know that a rebuild is a rebuild is a rebuild – and that it’s not that he inherited all bad players from Danny Ferry, but that our perceptions of many of them were clouded with what they could do on a veteran-laden team led by the best player in the game. That situation tends to make people look good. Stripped of that situation, Hickson was a player who had ability (just look at his recent stretch as a Trailblazer), but who had to be constantly prodded by Byron Scott to reach anything near his potential.
Tristan Thompson – for lack of a more meaningful term – “gets it.” He seemingly wants to play defense. He seemingly wants to guard the rim – and rebound – and dunk – and, yes, he seemingly wants to shoot from places and with a frequency that he shouldn’t right now – but, should he continue to develop, he has the potential to be a player who, like Anderson Varejao, is arguably overvalued, but … you know … unlike other players, properly so.