As contract negotiations drag on, LeBron remains in Thompson's corner

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

While Tristan Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers remain at an impasse in their contract negotiations, the best basketball player in the world won't stop talking him up.

"Our No. 1 objective right now is to sign Tristan," LeBron James told ESPN's Brian Windhorst on Thursday at Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio, where James announced a charitable effort to pay for hundreds of college scholarships. "(Thompson is) a huge part of our team. Short term and long term he makes our team more dangerous."

James' fondness for Thompson is no secret, and neither is the fact that they share the same agent in Rich Paul, who had strong words for the Cavaliers this week. If Thompson's only option is to sign a one-year qualifying offer, next season will be his last in Cleveland, Paul said.

Talks have reached a stalemate as the Cavs attempt to draw a line in the sand in terms of the amount of luxury tax they're willing to pay in 2015-16. Thompson and Paul have been lobbying for Draymond Green-type money - a five-year contract in the $90-million-plus range.

"Things need to be worked out from his side and the Cavs, but we need him back," James said. "I think our front office has done a great job this summer. The next step is to get Tristan done."

Last fall, Thompson reportedly turned down a four-year, $52-million contract offer from the Cavs during the team's exclusive extension window. At the time, it was reported that Thompson was under the impression he could ultimately get more from the organization simply by virtue of his relationship with James.

Once Kevin Love went down in the postseason, however, Thompson's strong play in Love's absence only reinforced the belief he was due for a major payday.

The Cavaliers have leverage due to Thompson's restricted free-agent status. Thanks to the salary cap, the Portland Trail Blazers are the only other club currently able to offer him the money he's reportedly seeking, and nobody expects them to bid.

Should Thompson be paid the max, the Cavaliers would be looking at a luxury tax bill of about $44.2 million next season, according to Bobby Marks, the former Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager and cap specialist.

Thompson's contract status is expected to keep him out of action for his native Canada in next month's FIBA Americas tournament. Team Canada head coach and Blazers assistant Jay Triano told a Toronto radio station this week the situation might change based on how and when Thompson's contract is resolved.

As contract negotiations drag on, LeBron remains in Thompson's corner
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