When Mo Bamba went down with a high-ankle sprain, the Los Angeles Lakers were suddenly thin at the front court position. Wenyen Gabriel filled in admirably at center behind Anthony Davis, but the Lakers still needed reinforcements in the event more injuries occurred.
On the final day of the 2022-23 season, Los Angeles signed Tristan Thompson to a deal in order to make him eligible for the playoff roster. Thompson was inactive for the final game of the regular season against the Utah Jazz, but joined the team as they made their playoff push.
Prior to signing with the Lakers, Thompson spent most of the year as a free agent where he used his downtime to serve as an analyst on ESPN. The last time he saw NBA action was during the 2021-22 season when he split time between the Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls.
At only 32 years old, there was reason to believe that the veteran had some juice left and could provide some size in the middle of the paint. Thompson failed to register an appearance in the first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies but eventually made his Lakers debut in Game 2 of the second round against the Golden State Warriors.
Thompson appeared mostly in garbage time in the postseason, but remained a good teammate off the bench as he was often seen clapping and cheering on his teammates. Thompson understood what his role would be and did well to remain professional during his brief tenure in L.A.
With the Lakers down 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals to the Denver Nuggets, Darvin Ham decided to shake things up in his rotation and give Thompson some extended run in meaningful minutes. Denver’s size at every position had been bothering Los Angeles, but Thompson came in and provided some much-needed energy and enthusiasm in a do-or-die Game 4.
Although Thompson only recorded four points and one rebound in just under 10 minutes, he made a positive impact and left fans thinking he could be a serviceable big next season.
Thompson will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he certainly made a modest case that he should be on an NBA roster next season as a veteran presence. Perhaps the Lakers could look to re-sign him, though they’ll have bigger priorities to address first.
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