And just like that, in one night, with a 97-91 victory over the Celtics, the nightmare ended.
And if your throat burns with the heat of a thousand suns this morning because your night ended screaming the lyrics to “Born to Run” into a karaoke machine in a bar that looks like a prison cafeteria, and if you had one of the best nights of your life, manhandling craft beers on West 25th, into high fives of simultaneous relief, disbelief and pure elation with friends, thank Tristan Thompson.
Over the course of months the Tristan Thompson of this season has transformed himself into a Charles Oakley presence. Last night he physically and mentally broke the Celtics defense, grappling for 17 rebounds and pouring a career high 29 points into the basket on the road against a playoff team. He overcame a poor offensive night by All Star Kyrie Irving. He was the stopper that they needed him to be.
No excuses. No complaints. Thompson took responsibility. Thompson called a professional head coach facing questions about his coaching future a “father figure”. Thompson backed it up; put the weight of the losing streak and the task of ending it on his own shoulders.
You want to see what a man looks like, you look at Tristan Thompson. Tristan Thompson is what the Cavaliers of the last decade of actively trying to win a championship lacked. Not just a second superstar, but a man willing to take responsibility, with the genuine desire and passion to grow his game, with the maturity to stand up for his teammates and coach and team against adversity. Tristan Thompson the human being has not just the ability but as important the will to be cornerstone of the franchise.
Tristan Thompson wears the jersey that will not be burnt.
Two years and a six hour car ride through congested Connecticut and New York traffic, over the bridge and down into the heart of Newark, where, four picks into an NBA Draft, his name sucked the air out of a giant arena, this seemed to be an impossibility. No one can blame you for your questions, your doubts and your insecurities when losing streaks and injuries have so consistently obfuscated the long term goals. But that day in Newark was miles and miles away and like the ten game losing streak from which last night was born, laid to rest.