By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: Even after he made 3-of-5 3-pointers using his right hand during a post-practice shooting contest last season, Tristan Thompson insisted he was left-handed.
When C.J. Miles playfully told Thompson he was actually right-handed, he just didn’t know it yet, Thompson shook his head no.
“I’m left-handed,” he said in February. “I’m positive.”
Now he’s positive he’s not.
Thompson concedes Miles was right all along. Now he believes he really is right-handed and has been shooting with the wrong hand for the past decade.
“I guess C.J. might be like Miss Cleo or something with his vision,” Thompson joked this week.
He began the historical change from left-handed to right-handed during Team Canada’s training camp for the FIBA Americas Championship. He is believed to be the first player to ever change his predominant shooting hand in the middle of an NBA career — a career that was off to a fine start.
Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds last season, falling just shy of the double-double goal former coach Byron Scott set for him in training camp. But Thompson flourished after a slow start, averaging 13.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in 56 games after Anderson Varejao was injured.
His shooting form looked ugly, but he dismissed it as lefties always looking a little strange in basketball. He shot a woeful 49 percent from the free-throw line in college, improved that to 55 percent as a rookie and increased it again to 61 percent last season.
Thompson is ambidextrous and does a little bit with each hand, which could’ve led to the confusion.
He eats, golfs and writes left-handed, but he bowls with his right hand. He brushes his teeth with his left hand, but he brushes his hair with his right.
“I’m still trying to figure out myself,” Thompson joked. “I’m 22, trying to figure it out, trying to get it together.”
But it was the fact he wrote left-handed that convinced him he was actually a lefty. If he wrote with his left hand, Thompson convinced himself, he must shoot with his left hand, too.
He didn’t begin playing basketball until he was 12 years old, and the sport wasn’t very popular in Canada at the time, so his coaching wasn’t always good. Thompson believes if he’d have grown up in the United States, someone would have caught this years ago.
“We had coaches, but in terms of the knowledge they had compared to the coaches down here [in the U.S.], it was a big difference,” he said. “Maybe at that age if I was shooting it left-handed and they said, ‘Man that thing looks ugly, switch it up and shoot with the right,’ I might have been right-handed sooner.”
Thompson has been playing right-handed for a couple of months now, dating back to his time with Team Canada, so he’s over the mental hurdles. Now he’s just trying to get comfortable physically.
“There’s no blueprint,” he said. “In terms of timetables, there really is none.”
Since it has never been done before, there was really no one for the Cavs to counsel on the change. They set him up with a shooting coach over the summer, but the transition is primarily on him.
“He’s done a phenomenal job with it,” coach Mike Brown said. “I give [credit] to Chris [Grant], because they’ve provided all the resources — a shooting coach and other stuff to help him make the transition.”
Not surprisingly, Brown didn’t get to see Thompson shoot much during Monday’s first practice. The majority of the morning was spent on defensive concepts, a trend that is likely to continue for at least a few more days.
Whenever the Cavs get around to offense, Thompson will be ready to lend a hand — his right.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.