When the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night, a name very familiar to Lakers fans will appear in the game program on the Cleveland roster. Mychel Thompson, the son and near namesake of former Laker Mychal Thompson (owner of two Championship rings and currently the analyst on the team's radio broadcasts) will be facing his dad's former club. Mychel with an 'E' probably won't be on the active roster for the Cavs, but as unlikely as it seemed that he might make an NBA roster, he'll be happy just to be in the locker room.
Mychel is of course one of two Thompson brothers playing their rookie seasons in the NBA. His younger brother Klay was a lottery pick of the Golden State Warriors, and sank a slew of jumpers when the Warriors visited the Lakers a week ago. But whereas Klay was a big time NBA prospect, chosen 11th in the NBA draft, big brother Mychel wasn't taken until 38th - in the D-league draft. A training camp invitee for the Cavaliers, he defied the odds to make the team.
Mychel Thompson played his college ball at Pepperdine, where he was a four year starter. As a senior he averaged almost 15 points per game and was the Waves' leading scorer by the end of the season, after Keion Bell left the program. Still, a 15 point per game scorer on a 12 win team from a small conference is not exactly the typical NBA resume.
Nonetheless, Cleveland coach Byron Scott liked what he saw from his former teammate's son in training camp. Asked about Mychel prior to the Cavs' game in Portland, he had this to say:
Just a very solid basketball player. Shot the ball OK during training camp, played good solid defense, rebounded for his position, but the biggest thing is he just knows how to play. He's just got a very good basketball IQ.
Thompson beat out a returning Cav, Manny Harris, for the final roster spot this year, and in so doing revives a long-standing tradition of Pepperdine players in the NBA. In fact, last year was the first since the ABA days that a season has passed without a Pepperdine alum on a pro roster. Unexpectedly, there are now two (Thompson and Malcolm Thomas, recently signed by the San Antonio Spurs; Thomas began his college career with the Waves before transferring to San Diego St.). Thompson has appeared in one game this season, playing a total of two minutes and grabbing a rebound.