Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein had high praise for Cavs forward Tristan Thompson after Thompson scored 12 points and pulled down 15 rebounds during Cleveland’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Beilein credited Thompson for his effort around the rim and insatiable passion. Chris Fedor of also added that the veteran forward has been incredibly vocal in his defense of Beilein in his first season:

“He was relentless,” Beilein said. “Protected the rim, had a couple of verticalities and he was the heart and soul of our team in many ways.”

Not just on Saturday night. It’s been that way since training camp, when Thompson arrived healthy and rejuvenated following a longer-than-usual summer. With a positive attitude and his usual effort, he often beat younger teammates in wind sprints and flourished in drills. Thompson helped set the tone from Day One. He showed up early and stayed late. Still does.

When teammates anonymously chastised Beilein, attacking him and questioning unconventional coaching methods, Thompson gave an impassioned defense. He has taken Garland under his wing. He’s boasted about Porter. He instructs teammates during timeouts and stoppages. He responded to one of his worst moments of the season — a blowup on Beilein in San Antonio that went viral and led to his benching — by staying engaged, cheering on his teammates and celebrating with them instead of pouting about the lack of playing time. Then he apologized.

Thompson is averaging 12.8 points and 10.1 rebounds on the season.

The 28-year-old is currently set to be a free agent after this year. The Cavs would reportedly like to make him a part of their future plans, though there has been little progress in terms of extension talks.

Regardless, Thompson has showcased his maturity and leadership throughout this season as this young Cavs team merely looks for improvement.