Days after his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith called playing with LeBron James “a gift and a curse,” Tristan Thompson disagreed, telling Bleacher Report that playing with the four-time MVP is ‘definitely a blessing.’
LeBron James and Tristan Thompson have been teammates for the last four seasons
Thompson, speaking to Howard Beck, had high praise for James, who Thompson said is “always going to be my brother, regardless”:
“I wouldn’t say it’s a curse. It’s definitely a blessing, because I definitely ate the fruits of his labor really well.”
Drafted with the fourth overall pick in 2011, Thompson endured three seasons near the bottom of the standings. Since James returned to his hometown ahead of the 2014-2015 season, the Cavaliers have been to four straight NBA Finals, winning in 2016.
Thompson did recognize that playing with James does come with extra pressure and attention: “I’d say there’s a microscope. You got to be ready to perform every night. So, you got to be prepared for that. And some guys can’t handle those big stages; some guys can.”
J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson and others have said it’s both a blessing and a curse
Following Smith’s infamous error at the end of Game 1, the mercurial shooting guard said playing with James is both “a gift and a curse.” Days later, footage showed Smith, who knew neither the score nor that his team had a timeout, next to an exhausted and exasperated James, and the two did not seem to exchange words while preparing for overtime.
The idea that playing with James is both a gift and a curse isn’t a new one, and some of James’ teammates have struggled on the court while trying to deal with that, perhaps one the product of the other.
“It’s a gift and a curse,” said guard Jordan Clarkson, who is struggling mightily in the Finals. “You got the attention of everybody watching all the time. It’s just part of it.”
“It’s definitely a present thing,” added Larry Nance Jr., another midseason acquisition. “You can’t turn on ESPN or SportsCenter without everybody else like, ‘Oh, LeBron’s got no help,’ and all that stuff.”
Rodney Hood has struggled more than anyone with the transition — he was scoring over 16 points per game in Utah and is now essentially out of the rotation in Cleveland. He echoed those sentiments when talking to The Undefeated: “You lose a game and you feel like the world is coming down. You win, it’s like, you’re supposed to win. It’s still a struggle to me to adapt to that.”
Game 3 is Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET
Though the Cavaliers are down 2-0, they are returning to Cleveland, where they have performed very well this postseason. Quicken Loans Arena has only seen one loss from the home team during the playoffs — the very first game against the Pacers. Perhaps the Cavaliers can make adjustments and get back into the series. But if they can’t, some of the players that have spoken about the challenges of playing with James may not be playing with him for much longer: He’s a free agent at season’s end.
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