There are some serious learning curves in adjusting to a professional game. While doing so with the position of NBA big man is nowhere near say, that of an NFL quarterback, it's still a process that involves hard work, repetition and learning quickly from mistakes.
Fortunately for Tristan Thompson, he's progressing - and he's had some fairly reliable help in that specific field along the way.
"The quickest guys are not usually the best; just look at Tim Duncan," the Cleveland Cavaliers forward told media in Toronto last week, citing the man he worked out with during the lockout. "Sorry to say, he's not the fastest guy in the NBA, but he gets what he wants."
Thompson, a 21-year-old Brampton, Ont., native and the highest-drafted Canadian in NBA history, had a chance to play with Duncan regularly in Texas before the lockout came to an end.
"Duncan kind of took [Thompson] under his wing," Cavs coach Byron Scott noted Friday when talking about an earlier game against the Spurs. "I know Tim really likes him ... thinks a lot of him."
That assessment is true, and the praise from Duncan himself is even more promising when you consider the future hall of famer said the Canadian is ahead of him in one area at this stage of his career.
"Obviously, his length is impressive and the ability to already use both hands around the basket is impressive. He's already light years ahead of me in that aspect," Duncan told the San Antonio Express-News last week. "I think he's got a very bright future in this league."
Thompson himself, like all NBA rookies, is still getting used to the grind of longer travel and more games - and the physical toll that entails.
"The key is just get your rest, stay on top of your body ... any little bumps and bruises, tell the trainer so it gets nipped in the bud," Thompson said. But he bristled somewhat at my suggestion of the "rookie wall," especially considering the compressed 66-game schedule. "You guys in the media and outside of basketball have a rookie wall, but for us young guys, you just keep playing hard," he said.
For Thompson, one upside of the Cavs' Toronto Easter weekend trip was a very rare NBA two-night stop, which allowed him to spend more time with family.
"Took the family out to dinner, treated everybody, paid the bill," he joked.
Jokes aside, Cleveland is highly optimistic about the Canadian's development. They are also happy with what they've seen so far, knowing that coming out of his college career at Texas, Thompson was incredibly raw offensively.
"There's probably only been one or two games where he came out and didn't play with the type of energy and effort I needed him to play with," Scott said Friday.
"This summer, when we get out hands on him for the whole summer, we can work on some of the things that we know are going to be really important to his future.
We didn't get that last summer. Him and Kyrie [Irving], it's hard for rookies this year to come in because of the shortened season, not really having a training camp."
So while Thompson's stats aren't outstanding, and he will watch his now-injured teammate Irving win Rookie of the Year honours next month, the basketball growth of the Canadian will be the thingt to watch.
"The season is not the time to get better, it's the summer," said Scott. "That's the time you have to spend working on things.
"He's going to come back a much more refined basketball player."Wiggins attracting LeBron-like hype
Canadian basketball phenom Andrew Wiggins dropped some more jaws over the weekend at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland. The 17-year-old Wiggins scored 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds, leading the World Team to an 84-75 win over Team USA Saturday night. The six-foot-seven suburban Toronto native, who now plays at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, still has two years of high school left and is beginning to build the sort hyperbole that surrounded LeBron James around 2001.
While there's a long way to go, it's generally agreed right now that he will be the first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft (assuming David Stern doesn't succeed in changing the minimum draft age again), after a year at one of the schools recruiting him - a list that includes Kentucky, North Carolina and his parents' alma mater, Florida State (his mother is former Canadian Olympic runner Marita Payne, his father onetime NBAer Mitchell Wiggins).
Wiggins also got candid
with SBNation's Ben Golliver (the pre-eminent Portland Trail Blazers blogger) over the weekend.
"[Americans] think less of us [Canadians], he told Golliver. "Well, not less of us, but like we're not as good as America. Put it that way.
"I'm proud I'm from Canada. But especially because I'm from Canada and ranked No. 1, people might kinda hate on me ... people think Canadians aren't as good as Americans. Over the past couple of years, we showed them with our talent: Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Steve Nash. We can go against the USA."
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