Thompson disses '15 Bulls, while pumping up LaVine, Vucevic
Not everyone would try to inspire teammates with tales of how their team failed in a past playoff series, but Tristan Thompson is an unconventional personality.
Thompson held court at the Advocate Center on Friday and talked about the first playoff experience of his career with Cleveland, which ended in the Finals and included a second-round series against the Bulls in 2015.
"Everyone thought you guys were going to beat us probably 4-1 or 4-2," Thompson said. "That's what they were saying on ESPN countdown. It worked out differently. We won 4-2.
"I think some of the players on their team quit after Game 2 or 3. I won't say their names, but I always believe the team that has the mental toughness and dogs that got the heart, I think they give themselves a chance to win series and I think that Cleveland team was able to do that."
It's debatable whether the Bulls were the favorites in that series, since the Cavs had homecourt advantage and maybe the league's best player in LeBron James.
But that Bulls team had Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, in the final year of coach Tom Thibodeau's tenure. Those Bulls were a few seconds away from holding a 3-1 lead in the series, then ended up losing Game 6 at home by 21 points. So Thompson does have a point.
"I told the guys on our team, I think the reason we were able to win that series is because (Cavs coach Tyronn Lue) did a great job of making adjustments after Game 1, but also we took attention to details," Thompson said. "I just felt like we had more heart and more fight than those guys.
"That's the biggest thing about the playoffs, you've got to be mentally locked in. I don't think it's so much in terms of skill and talent, it's more so which teams can pay attention to details, execute on a high level and who's got more heart and more fight."
Thompson, who joined the Bulls after the all-star break, had plenty more to say during Friday's interview session. Here's the rundown by topic:
On teammate Zach LaVine making his first playoff appearance:
"This has got to be the 'Zach LaVine Coming Out Party.' He's got to be the best guard in this series. He's been waiting for a long time, he's worked his butt off to get to where he is, being an all-star. Now this is the next chapter in terms of your whole journey.
"So I challenged Zach and he's accepted it. He wants to be great as well. He's got to have people leave that arena saying, 'Man, that boy Zach LaVine -- him, Donovan (Mitchell), (Devin) Booker -- they're all in the same stratosphere.'"
On teammate Nikola Vucevic:
"I told Vuc he's got to be the best big in this series. He's too gifted, too talented, can do too many things on the court where he's got to be a mismatch problem all night. I know he's excited about this, because he's got a chip on his shoulder. He wants to prove something, especially because of what happened in the past in Orlando. He wants to show he wasn't the issue.
"I believe he's one of the best bigs we have in our league because of how dynamic he is. He needs to go out there and show everyone."
On competing against the defending champion Bucks:
"I've played on multiple teams and lost to them four times in the regular season and had success in the playoffs. It's all about matchups at the end of the day. You have a week to prepare for one team. The same guy, you're going to see for a week, get to know him very well. You'll probably hate him by Game 3. But get to know him very well, know his tendencies."
On the intensity of the playoffs:
"This is what all it's about. Regular season is great and all and it's cool. The regular season's like a 7 and the playoffs are like an 11 in terms of intensity. So guys have got to understand how important each moment is.
"I think coach (Donovan) and us veterans have done a good job explaining that to guys. They'll see Game 1. It's going to be rocking in there, especially with them being defending champs. They have high expectations, so we have to come in with an 'us against the world' mentality."