Tristan Thompson's 18-point, 14-rebound performance in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 99-95 loss Thursday to the San Antonio Spurs wasn't only one of his most productive games of the season, it was an announcement: There's a new leader in the clubhouse.
With Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan sitting out the night before with pneumonia, snapping his consecutive games played streak at 360, Thompson assumed the league's top ironman streak when he took the court against the Spurs for his 325th straight game played.
"Obviously you never wish for a guy to get sick," Thompson said of taking the torch from Jordan. "Hope DJ feels better. Just got to keep it going now. Can't take no nights off, got to see how long we can keep it going, right?
"It's an honor but it's definitely, as a big, it makes you feel good that other bigs are being able to play consecutive games, especially with the pounding we go through in terms of rebounding, bumping against guys. It shows how we take care of our bodies."
Thompson's body has only failed him a couple of times in his five-year career. There was the time his rookie season he sprained his ankle, missed three games, came back to play and stepped on the foot of Boston Celtics forward Chris Wilcox, causing him to miss three more games. Then there was the time the Cavs were playing the Los Angeles Clippers on the road and Thompson came down with food poisoning.
"Oh, that was so tough," Thompson remembered. "I felt like a zombie out there. But I had to play and be there for my teammates and keep the streak alive."
Thompson needed IVs throughout the day leading up to tipoff to get him through that one. Suffice it to say, he hasn't dined at that restaurant since.
Thompson still trails Jim Chones (361) and Austin Carr (351) for the Cavs' franchise lead in consecutive games played, but he has a wide lead on his next closest competition for his current streak. The Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (202) is in second place.
"Yeah it means a lot, of course it means a lot," Thompson said. "Some guys are going to be all-time leading scorers, 20-time All-Stars. So I'm going to keep this streak alive. This will be my lane right here. Rebounding and consecutive games played. That's my lane right there, be the best I can be."
Oddly, Cavs coach David Blatt refused to shower praise on Thompson for the accomplishment. Saying "let's talk" after Thompson passes the 360-game mark that Jordan was at. Why not?
"Because he didn't break a record," Blatt said. "He's the current. I'm leading the league in field-goal percentage. I haven't missed a shot this year."
Cavs veteran James Jones, who has been around the NBA far longer than Blatt has, could recognize the significance of Thompson's mark, however.
"You know every day that this guy will be available regardless," Jones said. "And especially when he's a major piece of what we do. So, to have him there is comforting to know that our heart, our soul, our hustle -- a guy that brings the energy -- is going to be there every night."
Jones then cut to the core of why the streak is important: "This is a physical sport. This is about who can play hardest for the longest and he takes pride in that. That's how he challenges himself to push through."
The concept of a consecutive games played streak is becoming a bit archaic in today's NBA. You see healthy scratches all the time as coaches rest their players, even if they don't have any injury or illness to point to, to save them for the long haul.
Thompson understands that reasoning but has figured out a workaround.
"All you have to do is be there for jump ball, right?" Thompson asked. "As long as you're in the game for jump ball they can check you right out, right? If it comes down to that and Coach was like, 'We're going to rest guys tonight.' Then Coach, just let me do jump ball and call timeout. It's very important to me."