UPDATE: Dave McMenamin of ESPN notes that adhering to league rules is the primary justification for Cleveland removing references to Thompson.
PREVIOUSLY: The deadline for Tristan Thompson to sign a one-year qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers came and went on Thursday without any pen to paper. And now that the rebound-eating power forward has no contractual ties to the organization whatsoever, Cleveland officials are making sure he’s as far from the minds of fans as he is those of coaches and players.
LeBron James stressed earlier this week that he was “done” discussing Thompson’s situation, and David Blatt followed the four-time MVP’s lead on Friday by saying he slept especially easy the previous night – when agent Rich Paul had the last chance to procure his client short-term security and long-term flexibility.
Here’s the Cavaliers’ coach courtesy of ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“I was liking the dream I was having,” Blatt said with a wry smile. “Usually I don’t go to sleep that early, but last night I was tired. We’re just back at it. We’ve got to focus on the now and here and that’s what we’re doing.”
Team officials removed all likeness to Thompson from Quicken Loans Arena on Friday morning, and a search for his name at the team’s online store yielded no results 24 hours later.
That the qualifying offer is no longer available represents a significant loss of leverage for Thompson and his camp.
Paul indicated in August that the 24-year-old would accept the one-year QO from Cleveland if the sides couldn’t reach a long-term agreement and subsequently leave Northeast Ohio as an unrestricted free agent after the season. But Thursday’s deadline passed, and with no deal in place that means that Thompson will face restricted free agency – giving the Cavaliers the right to match any competing offer sheet – again next summer unless he and the Cavaliers settle on new terms in the interim.
Thompson’s refusal of Cleveland’s five-year, $80 million contract on July 1st was always going to represent a gamble, but no one ever believed his bet would reach its current stakes. And while odds are still in favor of he and the Cavaliers coming to an agreement before long, its now clear that the ultra-aggressive negotiating tactics of Paul won’t pay off in the biggest way it once seemed they would.
And Cleveland, obviously, is trying to ensure that’s the case by beginning their quest for a title without Thompson not just in mind, but also sight.