CLEVELAND — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he is making Tristan Thompson the Cavs’ starting center for the foreseeable future — including to start the playoffs — before his team’s game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
When asked for his motivation behind the move, Lue said: “I just wanted to.”
Thompson is averaging 8.4 points on 59.9 percent shooting and 10 rebounds in 32 starts this season and 7.6 points on 58.7 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds in 48 games coming off the bench.
“It’s the same thing, it makes no difference,” Thompson told ESPN.com prior to the Hawks game. “Come in, play hard, rebound, defend, finish around the rim. The same thing I was doing with the second unit. It’s just that you got to do it from tipoff instead of just reading the game to get a feel. You got to go out there and set the tone. So, stay out of foul trouble and do what I need to do.”
It has been a disappointing season for Mozgov, the massive 7-foot-1, 275-pound big man acquired via trade last January. Mozgov is averaging 6.1 points on 56.5 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game this season — a precipitous decline from the 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks he averaged in last year’s playoffs.
Lue has previously made matchup-based decisions at center, keeping the 6-10, 238-pound Thompson as a reserve when the Cavs’ opponent featured some of the league’s space-eating big men.
One such big man, the 6-11, 279-pound Andre Drummond, would be Thompson’s challenge in the post in the first round of the postseason should the standings hold. The Cavs are currently in the No. 1 spot and the Detroit Pistons are currently No. 8.
“He’s an All-Star and he’s playing very well this year, averaging 14 and 14 or whatever it is,” Thompson told ESPN.com of Drummond, who is putting up 16.3 points and 14.8 rebounds per game this season. “He’s a big part of the team and he’s a big guy, but at the same time, I got to do what I’m good at to make him uncomfortable just using my quickness and speed and trying to find ways to frustrate him. So, I’ll be fine. I’m too young to be worried about if my body is going to take a beating. So, I just got to be ready to play.”