Q+A: Jason Thompson
Catching up with the Sacramento Kings center at the Delco Pro Am.
by Brett Weisband / @weisband
The Main Line, just outside of Philadelphia, generally gets pretty quiet during the summer months. Its native people are either down the shore, at summer camp, or stuck in the office.
But the three courts in Haverford College’s Douglas B. Gardener Center get pretty loud for a few weeks during the dog days. This year, the small campus is hosting the Delaware County Pro-Am for the second time.
The league draws teams of all calibers, from smaller local college teams to Big Five alumni squads, plus a few sponsored teams. Rosters are filled with guys who starred locally while at Temple, St Joseph’s and Villanova, as well as high school standouts from the area.
NBA talent from the area drop in as well. Kyle Lowry, Maalik Wayns and Jason Thompson have all played this summer, while names like John Salmons, Wayne Ellington, Hakim Warrick and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all on rosters.
SLAMonline caught up with Thompson, a South Jersey and Lenape High School product, to see how he feels about playing summer ball, what he’s been working on this offseason and how he feels about the direction his Sacramento Kings are heading.
SLAM: What parts of your game have you been working on this summer?
Jason Thompson: Definitely been working on my agility. I’m trying not to be one dimensional. Having all my different coaches—they mostly wanted bigs to be in the paint, and do that type of stuff. With Coach [Mike] Malone, I’m at least trying to rebound and be able to take it myself at times, distribute, try to extend my range a little bit with the three.
SLAM: Have you been talking to Coach Malone at all this summer?
JT: Yeah, not in the beginning when all that hectic stuff with the owners was going on, but ever since right before the Vegas Summer League we’ve been talking. I haven’t played in Vegas since my second year, but I saw my brother Ryan Thompson, he’s playing for the Washington Wizards, and then I was watching the Kings, kind of just watching Coach Malone’s system. Obviously they only had two of the Draft picks on the team with Ben [McLemore] and Ray [McCallum], but just to see how his practices go and see the approach they’re taking this year.
SLAM: When did you get started playing in the Delco Pro Am?
JT: I’ve been playing for, I think, three years now, I’ve had my own team for the past two years. I’ve played in some Jersey leagues; the Drexel league, too.
SLAM: You were out there running the point and shooting threes tonight. Is that something you get to work on here that you don’t get the chance in the League?
JT: Yeah, but it’s one thing if I’ve had one coach throughout my time, but every year I’ve had a different coach. I don’t think there’s a lot of guys who can say that. Every coach has a new system and expects you to do some things differently, so for the most part it’s kind of tough to have some of your things that you used to do back in the day. Hopefully with Coach Malone, in the future I’ll be able to add some of those things.
SLAM: Your role on the Kings and what you do in these summer leagues is obviously a little different. What’s it like getting the experience of being one of the top guys in the league?
JT: It’s good, you’re playing against guys you grew up with. I’m playing with Kyle Hines (of CSKA Moscow) who played at Timber Creek (NJ), guys who I’ve played on AAU teams with, other pros. It’s good, man, we all keep in touch. For the most part, I get to do different things. One of the reasons I got to the League was my versatility—there are times here when I get the rebound and pull up for three, things I don’t get to do with the Kings. I think, other than the superstar guys that pretty much do everything, you’ve got the guys who play their role to make the team better. There are guys who could average 20, but they only score 10 or 11 because that’s what the team needs.
SLAM: What was it like last year with all the ownership uncertainty, the talk about possibly moving to Seattle?
JT: It was definitely a distraction. Obviously when you’re talking to the media during the season, you don’t want to say that, but it definitely is. Everywhere you go, people are asking. They think that you’re the reason why, but they don’t understand the business aspect. For most of us, everyone loves the city.
SLAM: How’d it feel to have stuff like the “Here We Stay” night to have the fans come out and support?
JT: Aw man, it was a lot of emotion. I was one of those guys that every time, that night of our last home game, I stayed after to say thanks to the fans. I don’t even know how it would be if I was a fan and I was in that type of situation.
SLAM: So you like the direction the team’s heading?
JT: I think so, it’s definitely going in a positive direction. I like the direction we’re going—you’ve got good ownership and it seems like a good coaching staff. Hopefully we’ve got better things to come.
SLAM: What do you have going on the rest of the summer?
JT: I’ve just been training, and I’ve got my camps. I’ve got an overnight camp next week at Rider, and I’ve got my first annual camp out in Sacramento August 5-9. I’m always traveling and working out while I’m traveling. This summer, I went to Vegas, Cali—LA, Sacramento, the Bay Area—Miami, and actually I went to Hawaii for the first time. The last week in August, I think I’m going to take a Euro-trip and hit London, Barcelona, check those places out just to sightsee, man. All the hard work you put in, you pay off, you don’t have to work hard all the time. You’ve got to have some down time and treat yourself.