After sitting idle for several weeks with the roster at 13 players, the Los Angeles Lakers finally made a move in early September to bring in big man Christian Wood. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said himself that the Lakers were active in the center market weeks before the signing and Wood was always the biggest name attached to the team.
Wood ultimately signed a veteran minimum deal with the Lakers. The process likely dragged out as Wood and his camp were either waiting for a bigger offer to come in elsewhere or for a big trade to go down that would allow him to sign with another team and have a bigger role.
Los Angeles remained patient and ultimately signed the guy that the team seemingly wanted all along. The Lake Show would have been foolish to not have a backup plan if the team couldn’t sign Wood, though, and that backup plan may have revealed itself based on recent free-agent activity.
Tristan Thompson is not the player that Wood is but the fact that he signed a deal to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers shortly after the Lakers signed Wood makes you think about what Thompson may have been waiting for.
It’s reasonable to expect that Tristan Thompson was the Lakers’ backup plan for Christian Wood.
After all, Los Angeles signed Thompson at the tail-end of the 2022-23 season and included him on the playoff roster. Thompson even got some minutes in the Denver Nuggets serious and faired better than the other options that the team tried throwing at Nikola Jokic.
Thompson would not have provided the floor spacing that Wood provides and he would not have played as big of a role in the rotation. If the Lakers didn’t land Wood then the team just needed a veteran option that could come in and play 10 minutes if need be.
It likely would have been on a non-guaranteed deal and would have essentially been a place-holder signing until the Lakers were able to land a more impactful big via the buyout market.
Thompson is a good friend of LeBron James and is also represented by Klutch Sports. It is not unreasonable to think that he would have preferred to stay in sunny Los Angeles and have a better chance of contending.
Instead, Los Angeles found its big man in Wood and Thompson was at least able to return back to the place that he used to call home in Cleveland.