This is the second installment of The Purple Panjandrum’s pre-season interview series. Sacramento Kings third year power forward/center took time to answer some questions following practice this week.
TPP: Tell me a little bit about your role with the Las Vegas summer league team. I know you didn’t play but you were there with the team the whole time?
JT: Yeah, I didn’t have to play this time, I played my first two years. It’s good to always be supportive, I feel like of us core guys, even though we weren’t playing, but just to be there, be there at practice at times, it’s good to just have some continuity. And my little brother (Ryan Thompson) was playing there as well, and now he is in training camp with the Utah Jazz.
TPP: After summer league, you went to play in a big man camp, how did that go?
JT: It was good, me and Hassan Whiteside went there and I had gone there my rookie year as well. It’s Grgurich’s camp, he’s an assistant coach for the Nuggets, and it’s good. A lot of drill and it’s not just a big man camp, there are a lot of swingmen and guards. We do drills, full-court and we get to play pick-up games as well. It keeps you in shape and you know, it’s a good city there in Las Vegas.
TPP: You’re two years into the NBA now, but coming from a small school like Rider, is it important for you to hit these big man camps because the competition level is so different between the mid-major and the NBA?
JT: It’s good to just play against your peers and play against guys that are in the league that you play against every night as opposed to going back home, like I did and, you have some guys who play overseas or one or two guys that play in the league, so it’s just good to go into an atmosphere where you are playing against the competition that you are playing against in the league. A lot of guys go there (Grgurich camp), there are a lot of good pick ups and it’s organized and there’s a lot of good history.
TPP: Shifting gears here, what was your experience in Israel like?
JT: Oh man, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had. I was out there for a week. I got to go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, all those things – it was really nice. I stayed in Tel Aviv and I got to see a game – Israel versus Italy, it was a good time.
JT: I’m kind of a funny guy, a goofball, but I know when to be serious and when not to be serious. I carry myself well, if I do interviews and stuff, I’m always joking around but also giving good information to kids and to people because I carry myself right. I know when to have a good time and when to joke around, but also when to handle my business.
TPP: You look leaner this season.
JT: That was one of the emphases, trying to get stronger, trying to get to the free throw line more, some more and-1′s. The biggest thing for me this season is to stay consistent. To keep my strength up, keep eating healthy with my chef and just staying right.
TPP: What did the coaching staff ask you to focus on this summer? What was their goal for Jason Thompson?
JT: Just to work on my go to moves in the post, keep improving my jump shot, keep my strength up. I had a real strong start to the year last year and finished the year strong. It was that mid-way point where I had an injury and a passing in the family and it kind of messed up my rhythm. For me, this year is just about staying consistent and doing whatever it takes.
TPP: Let me read you a quote from Coach Westphal after yesterday’s practice. Westphal was asked, “which player came into camp most ready to compete?” and he responded, “The two players who have been in the best shape and the most consistently reliable have been Jason Thompson and Pooh Jeter.” What do you think about that?
JT: It’s a good compliment and I think it’s pretty accurate. I’ve known Pooh and he’s worked real hard and been overseas and this his first time in the league. It’s good that he’s been working well and I’ve tried to work as hard as I could during the summer. I got here early- two weeks before training camp, and I’m just trying to be focused and let not only my coaches but my teammates know that I am here and I’m ready to get things going and get some wins.
TPP: Sort of in the same vein of questions, Jerry Reynolds spoke on the Rise Guys radio show this week and he had this to say about you, “he was easily the best player on the floor yesterday….he’s come to camp ready to play.”
JT: Yeah, just to set a tone for this team and sometimes I’ve got a good amount of minutes - I played every game my rookie year and I played most of the games last year. We’ve got some younger guys and I’m trying to take some of them under my wing. I’m trying to get this thing on the right track and all I want to do is to be consistent and just win…just get this city going.
TPP: With all of these bigs, is there a log jam for minutes?
JT: I don’t really think it’s a log jam, you know, if you look at it like that then you aren’t looking at it like a team. For us, it’s going to be more about match-ups and which guys can play better together. If you take it more as a competition once the season starts, then that’s when you don’t have chemistry, you don’t have continuity. A few times when a guy has rhythm, he stays on the floor. If other guys can provide a better rhythm, then they come in the game. In the past, if guys got hurt, they would just stay in and play, but now if you’ve got another guy who’s just as talented or better, then you can have a guy sit out a couple of games and someone else can come in and play for him.
Jason Thompson says a lot of the things you want to hear form a player on your team. His insistence that the Kings bringing in Dalembert, Cousins, Landry and Whiteside is what’s best for the team is genuine and not fluff. It will be interesting to see how coach Westphal mixes and matches his now packed front line, especially with both Dalembert and Landry playing on expiring deals and Thompson playing for an extension.
The maturation of Jason Thompson, the player, is one of the key questions that need to be answered this season. Only time will tell if the work he has put in will be enough to make him a permanent fixture on the Kings front line.