Tristan Thompson made his return to the Celtics' lineup in a bounce back 101-99 win over the New York Knicks Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The veteran big man missed 12 straight games after being in health and safety protocol since March 15 due to a bout with COVID-19. Thompson didn't show any lasting effects after logging in 22 minutes off the bench to record seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
"I was in a twelve-round battle with that sucker. Thankfully, I won. I'm still here," said Thompson in his postgame press conference.
While Robert Williams has been a beneficiary when it comes to playing time in Thompson's absence, the Celtics got some much needed added depth in their frontcourt.
"More toughness, more energy, he brings that energy. He really controls the boards for us, and he does a really good job at it. He does a really good job of getting us extra possessions. Does a really good job of protecting us when we make mistakes on the defensive end," said Marcus Smart during his postgame presser.
Thompson's teammates were clearly happy to have him back, despite a report that the 2016 NBA champion center was not liked in the Celtics' locker room while he was battling the coronavirus.
"That guy, Kevin O'Connor — I don't know if I should mention his name or not, because he doesn't deserve my two cents, but I remember every name because I am like an elephant," Thompson said, addressing the rumor. "So, with him saying I'm not liked in the locker room, that was funny, because that's not the case.
Thompson referenced what Kevin O'Connor and Chris Vernon said on The Ringer's "The Mismatch Podcast" back in March.
O'Conner said that "Thompson is not loved in that locker room," while Vernon noted that the Celtics' big man was in health and safety protocol for the second time this season.
"The level of … out-ness on Tristan Thompson is unbelievable," Vernon said. "They've got to get rid of him."What made you feel that?" O'Connor asked."I feel that has been a disaster," Vernon said. "From what I was told, he won't stop going out. He just goes out, and of course he's breaking the protocols. He's not testing positive for this stuff, right? You're not getting the contact tracing and all the stuff that goes along with this. … He doesn't want to play."
Despite Vernon's reported claim, Thompson revealed that he did indeed test positive for COVID.
I had a bit of all the symptoms," Thompson said. "At least I kept my taste and smell so I can enjoy my food but, yeah, that shit was no joke. So, definitely going to get the vaccine when I'm eligible to get it. That shits no joke for me, so I wasn't one of the lucky ones to have no symptoms."
Thompson called out O'Connor for the "false" report even though it was Vernon who began the conversation on the podcast and the audio clip went viral on Twitter with O'Connor attached as the culprit behind what was said regarding the Celtics' locker room.
"I'm used to it," Thompson said. "Why not mention my name? Especially with our team going through and up-and-down season like everyone is trying to say. So it makes sense to point out one of the better guys. But [Jaylen Brown] and Kemba [Walker] came in and had their tweet. Kemba doesn't ever tweet and he tweeted that, and JB came and did the same thing. That guy just wanted click baits. You're welcome, Kevin O’Connor, for using my name. Got you some more hits and some retweets."
After nine seasons in Cleveland, Thompson is pretty confident that he's very much liked by not only all of his teammates but by coaches and even ball-boys have enjoyed being around the vet since his rookie season.
"I've got a pretty good rapport in this league," Thompson said. "So I'm not going to let some guy with Twitter fingers try to bring down what I've built. Good attempt, Mr. O'Connor. But I'm Teflon steel. You can't bring me down like that. I'm too blessed."
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images