Sportsnet caught up with Raptors forward Jason Thompson after his first practice with his new team to talk about his initial impressions, why he chose Toronto, and what it was like having a courtside seat to watch the Splash Brothers every night.
Sportsnet: For Raptors fans who haven’t seen you what can they expect you to bring to the team?
Jason Thompson: I’m versatile. I can rebound and run, finish in the paint and shoot the outside jumper. In this role I can take sacrifices for the team. Coming in, I’m not trying to force things, just be an energy guy defensively.
What was it like to be on a historically great team like Golden State yet personally having the most limited role in your career?
I was used to playing 25-30 minutes per game throughout my career. It was tough for me not playing, especially when they had a set rotation coming off of winning a championship. You have to put your ego to the side. When you only lose five games it is hard to argue for minutes. I have a great relationship with the guys and wish them the best the rest of the way.
What was appealing to you about the opportunity in Toronto?
I played with Patrick Patterson and James Johnson in Sacramento, and I’ve known Kyle [Lowry] from being local in the Philly area. There was a comfort level that came with that. It’s not like I was coming to a team on the decline. They are doing really well. Second in the East and getting even better. For me it was an oppourtunity to help with the depth. Our expectations are very high and I just want to help maintain those expectations.
Offensively, Toronto asks their power forwards to stretch the floor. I saw you taking lots of three pointers after practice. Is that something you are looking forward to?
Yeah! It was something I’ve been able to do. In my eight-year career I’ve had 11 coaches including coach Casey. It’s tough. You may work out in the summer and develop that into your game and then a coach comes in with a totally new system.
What was the perception of the Raptors in other locker rooms?
A young and upcoming team led by Kyle and DeMar [DeRozan] with a lot of guys that are unselfish. That’s important in the league. A lot of guys get egos and become selfish. Here, guys don’t have to take as many shots if they are doing things that don’t show up in the stat sheet and it leads to wins. It’s not all about getting shots. If what you do leads to wins, then everybody is going to eat.
Golden State is known for having one of the best cultures in the league. You’ve said what the Raptors have this year is similar. How so?
You can just tell. When I was at the last practice I would see guys taking certain shots and others guys encouraging them saying, “Don’t worry about you missing. We know you are going to make it the next time.” And that’s great. Guys know this team is very talented so they are willing to make the extra pass and encourage others to shoot. When you have the relationship that these guys have off the court it is going to translate to on the court as well.
You go from playing with one of the best backcourts in the history of the NBA to the best backcourt in the history of the Raptors franchise. How would you compare the two?
Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] really make you guard the three and then have developed to be able to put the ball on the floor. Kyle and DeMar can shoot but their big thing is they get to the free throw line a lot. That helps out the team because if guys don’t have it going you can rely on them to get 8-10 from the line and slow the game down. Both are great backcourts but different; our guys are killer with post-ups and those guys are killer with threes.