Tristan Thompson to be waived by the Pacers, join Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls

Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle made the announcement after Thompson's season-best performance in a win over the Wizards.

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Tristan Thompson will be waived by the Pacers on Thursday and then he plans to sign with the Chicago Bulls, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said following their 113-108 win over the Wizards before All-Star break.

“Well, it was fun while it lasted,” he said with a big smirk. “He’s gonna be joining a different team. He’s gonna be waived tomorrow and he’ll be joining a contending team in the East. A little bit north, if anybody wants to tweet. Starts with a ‘C’ and ends with an ‘O.’”

That would be Chicago.

You have to appreciate Carlisle’s sense of humor.

He continued: “We thanked him for what he’s brought for the last six or seven days. He brought a high level of professionalism and he’s done a really good job.

“I don’t mind announcing it because it’s gonna happen and what the heck? Nothing wrong with speaking the truth. It’s a rare instance where you get to thank a guy in the presence of his teammates, and these guys have an awful lot of respect for who he is, what he’s accomplished in the league, former starter on a championship team. And he played very, very big tonight.”

This was expected, one of three possible moves I mentioned right before the trade deadline. They then traded veteran Torrey Craig back to the Suns, the best team in the NBA, and now are setting Thompson free.

“Indy, thank you for everything!” Thompson wrote on Instagram. “I really appreciate all the love and energy I received from everyone from the organization and the fan base. I always admired the Pacers franchise and have had some amazing playoff battles. Even though my time was short, I appreciated every minute of it. Even though I’m gone, my two brother in this picture (Haliburton and Hield) will do some great things and make this organization and city proud. Love these two guys. Will always be watching them and cheering them on. Till next time Indy. Thank you.”

The Pacers are 20-40 whereas the Bulls, at 38-21, have the best record in the Eastern Conference. This allows for Thompson to join a contending team for the rest of the season while the Pacers focus on the future and give their young guys — like Goga Bitadze, Isaiah Jackson, Terry Taylor and Jalen Smith — valuable playing time.

Waiving Thompson also opens up one roster spot.

Thompson spent his first nine seasons with the Cavaliers and won a championship in 2016. (Photo: PS&E)

Thompson, 30, was a member of the Pacers for just nine days. He played in four games over that stretch and his last game, on Wednesday night, was his best of the season: 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting and six rebounds in 21 minutes.

“Hell of a way to go out, huh? He’s hooping, made some big plays for us,” said second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton.

Thompson was acquired just before the trade deadline last week, along with Haliburton and Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings for Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb.

Prior to the trade, he hadn’t played in over a month with the Kings. However, Thompson was important to the Pacers because he was healthy and available. They only had nine players available against the Wizards due to injuries.

“He became a vet for me, kind of like a big brother for me when he got to (Sacramento) and coming with me here, he’s helped guide me,” said Haliburton, the centerpiece in the Pacers’ deal. “Our conversations have been amazing from the get(-go), had a really good relationship so of course I’m gonna miss him.”

The veteran center is on an expiring contract, due $9.7 million for this season. This will likely be a buyout situation — where in exchange for waiving Thompson, the Pacers aren’t on the hook for at least the salary he earns from the Bulls for the rest of the season.

Players and staff head their separate ways now for a much-needed break. The Pacers’ next game is on Friday, Feb. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.