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Meet The Thompson Brothers

Jason and Ryan Thompson talk to Basketball Insiders about their supportive parents, the NBA and playing overseas.

Oliver Maroney

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Ryan and Jason Thompson are two very unique individuals. Jason is the older of the two siblings, and they grew up in the same household. Both of their parents were blue-collar workers; their father was a UPS employee while their mother was a nurse. Neither son grew up assuming that they’d someday make basketball or professional sports their career. They had supportive parents who were strict, strong-willed and smart.

“Sometimes I think kids don’t want to be around strict tones,” Jason told Basketball Insiders. “But I think a family with structure works and pans out for the future. Education was always a priority in our household. After that, we could go to [play basketball].”

Their parents were always involved and helpful. As the two brothers grew older, they knew their parents would be there to support them.

“Every single game, you would see them,” Ryan said. “As competitive as they are, they would never sit next to each other. They would also sit on opposite sides of the court. They were at every game. Even every college game, they were in the stands and gave us the support that we needed.”

Both Jason and Ryan credit their parents for a lot of their success. As noted, they would push them – on and off the court. Of course, they both had to put in extremely hard work as well in order to achieve their success. Jason and Ryan attended Rider University, a small school in New Jersey, where they both had illustrious college careers. Jason would graduate and become the No. 12 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings.

Since that point, a lot has changed. Both brothers are now playing professionally overseas in China and Germany, respectively.

After eight years in the NBA – playing for the Kings, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors – Jason made the leap to the Chinese Basketball Association this season where he’s now suiting up for the Shandong Golden Stars. The move takes him far from home, but as he looks back on the ups and downs of his NBA journey, he’s excited to be in China and is taking full advantage of the opportunity.

“Well, for me, I am very blessed,” Jason told Basketball Insiders. “I got to play at a small school in Rider and developed, growing three-to-four inches and gaining 50 pounds in college to become an NBA prospect. I was projected from lottery to mid-to-late first round. When you go in the lottery, you don’t go to a good team. Obviously, I had an amazing seven years with Sacramento, but in that time we had two different ownership [groups] and seven different coaches. I had over 100 teammates. So no coach I had was there for over two seasons. I put up good, solid numbers at times, double-figure seasons in most years I played in Sacramento. Then, I just wanted to see if the grass was greener on the other side.

“So I went to Philly and almost immediately, Golden State traded for me. I was in an unfortunate situation with a team coming off a championship where none of the guys were leaving and everyone was coming back. So it was tough getting minutes on a team that just won a championship. Then, I had the opportunity to play in Toronto and experience my first playoffs with a team that was high in the NBA as well. So I went from a team that was not as good, playing a lot of minutes and being a starter my whole career, to higher-ranked teams and not playing as much but just doing what it takes to win. Definitely two different scenarios in that sense of being with an organization for seven years and then being with two teams all in one season. It’s definitely crazy when it comes to that. With the CBA it’s a different opportunity, but it’s a great one.”

For Ryan, he’s also in a different situation. He decided to play in Germany for Telekom Baskets Bonn after playing in the NBA’s Development League. He obviously watched his brother experience success in the NBA and dreamed about playing in the league as well. However, he can appreciate his own path and where his career has taken him over the years.

“The motto that my brother and I have is just, ‘Control what you can control,'” Ryan said. “If you go into a game thinking, ‘I’m going to do this and this, or worrying if coach going to put me in,’ you’ll never be comfortable. Just control what you can control and play the game the way you’ve been playing for your entire life. That’s how I’ve approached my career as well. As the years have been going on and I’ve been getting older, you just kind of hit the point where whatever happens, happens. Before when I was younger it was hoping, hoping, hoping [I’d be in the NBA]. Now, I’ve been playing overseas in what is my sixth season. This is home now until it’s over. Unless another road opens up for me, this is where I am and where I’m going to be.”

thompson-brothers

Rider University Website (rider.edu)

It’s pretty remarkable that the brothers have followed such similar paths. Both were raised under the same roof, played at the same high school and college, and ended up playing professionally. They’re also currently leading their respective teams overseas in player efficiency rating and performing very well. While they’re in two different countries, they keep in close contact because the time zone difference isn’t too bad.

“With [Jason’s] experience, it wasn’t always the greatest of times because he wasn’t always on the winning side of things,” Ryan said. “You got to push through it, and the same goes with me. We always talk because situations aren’t going to be in your favor at all times, you just have to make the best of every situation that you’re in. The thing that’s good about us is we talk a lot. We actually talk more now because he’s overseas and the time change isn’t so different. Also, in the summer when the season is over, it’s good to have somebody in your corner that’s competitive too. In the summer, we’re always working out together and keeping things competitive so we’re ready for whatever is to come next.”

“It’s a great situation,” Jason added about his relationship with his brother. “Obviously, with having a brother two years apart and having the same interests in a lot of things, especially basketball, it’s a great relationship. We went to the high school together and we also went to the same college, which is not heard of. Getting to play two years in high school and two years in college together was great because we’d be there for each other. Any time he needed me for advice as a pro, with things on and off the court, I was always there for him throughout the way. Now with me being on the other side of the water right now, I’ve been getting a lot of advice from him since he’s been over here for the past seven years. It’s definitely been a learning experience and a change of direction, with him knowing more that goes on over here.”

As they’re both playing overseas in different countries now, they’re also mindful of starting their careers after basketball. They grew up in a family that takes pride in working hard, having strong morals, ensuring financial stability and planning for the future. Ryan and Jason each have plans for when they’re done playing because they know their on-court careers can’t last forever. Jason plans to work in broadcasting, while Ryan wants to coach.

“I always keep in contact with my coaching staff at Rider University,” Ryan told Basketball Insiders. “That’s where Jason and I played. Whenever I decide to stop playing overseas or don’t have the opportunity to play overseas anymore, I think coaching is a thing I want to do. I want to stay around the game of basketball and help kids go through the process that I went through – teach them some of the things I’ve learned and watch kids grow up and be able to do some of the things I have.”

Jason, on the other hand, wants to have a future in broadcasting.

“My degree is in TV and Radio Communications,” Jason said. “So I want to be some type of analyst for sports and, obviously, preferably basketball. But really, any sport would be nice. Starting a show on television, being on the radio, hosting a podcast and doing things like that. I also want to do something on the side of SiriusXM radio, where I talk about relationships and being single. I think that would be intriguing from the athlete’s perspective. Those are all things I want to do media wise. But I also have my Jason Thompson Foundation. It’s helping out kids to speak their minds on certain things and keep them out of trouble in the urban areas.”

Jason has attended the NBPA’s sportscaster program and hope to continue pursuing that career path long-term. His foundation is built in support of his cousin, Tiffany Carroll, who passed away to a disease known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is known as a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. The foundation was built around raising awareness of heart disease for athletes, children and young adults. However, Jason also has goals for future endeavors with his foundation.

The Thompson brothers are two basketball players who are living out their dreams on a level they’d never thought possible when they were growing up. Their parents provided them with motivation and support, and through hard work and the desire to learn, they’ve managed to thrive in any situation.

“I want to teach kids that everyone has a dream, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything in life,” Jason said. “With hard work, having yourself around the right people and making the right decisions, you can achieve anything you want.”

He also stresses the importance of having a back-up plan just in case, adding: “God forbid something happens to me playing wise, I have my education to fall back on.”

The slogan “Live Like J.T.” is on his website as well as “learn, imagine, voice, educate.” This statement clearly sums up what the Thompson brothers have achieved and will continue to work toward. While they aren’t currently in the NBA, they’re enjoying the international game and looking forward to their respective futures.

Oliver Maroney is an NBA writer for Basketball Insiders. He is based in Portland and covers the league as a whole.

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NBA Daily: Are The Knicks For Real?

Ariel Pacheco breaks down the New York Knicks and their start to the season. Might they be able to push for a spot in the postseason?

Ariel Pacheco

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The New York Knicks are on a four-game losing streak after their hot 5-3 start to the season. Yes, their play has been inconsistent, but their effort has yet to wane. And, while they are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference, the team has some solid wins under their belt and has seen, arguably, their best start in years.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s fingerprints are all over this team. Combined with the positive start, it begs the question: do the Knicks have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East? 

The Knicks have been competitive mainly due to Julius Randle; he’s played like an All-Star to start the season to the tune of 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. Randle’s drastic improvement from a season ago has been a major boon to New York, as he’s kept them in close games and, at times, been their lone source of offense. His stat line would put him in elite company, as one of only four to average at least 20, 10 and 5 this season.

The other three? Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis. 

Behind him, Mitchell Robinson has been the Knicks’ second-best player so far. He’s third in the NBA in offensive rebounds and 10th in blocks. Beyond that, it’s hard to overstate how impactful he’s been on the defensive end — when he’s off the court, the Knicks’ defense completely craters. And, while his offensive game is limited to mostly dunks and layups, Robinson provides the team a vertical threat in the paint with his elite lob-catching skills. 

Kevin Knox II has also shown signs of becoming a rotation-level NBA player. He’s shot 41.7% from three and, while he still needs work on defense, he hasn’t been nearly as detrimental the team’s efforts on that end as as he has in years past.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. First and foremost, they lack the shooting to consistently put teams away and win games. And, of course, teams have taken advantage of that, as the Knicks have faced a zone defense — an effective defense, but one that can easily be shut down by a consistent presence beyond the three-point line —  in every single game they’ve played this season. Of every Knick that has shot over 20 threes this season, Austin Rivers and Kevin Knox II are the only two that have shot above 35%, while no starter has shot above league average from deep on the season. During their latest four-game losing streak, they’ve shot just 31% from deep as a team.

RJ Barrett, who has really struggled to shoot the ball from all over the floor to start the year, is arguably New York’s biggest culprit here. Currently, Barrett has shot a bad 37.2% from the field, an even worse 18.5% from three and a better but still below average 70.2% from the free throw line. He’s also struggled to finish near the basket. Of course, more spacing in lineups that feature Barrett, as opposed to the clogged lanes he stares down alongside guys like Randle and Robinson, could go a long way in improving those numbers.

But, unfortunately, the Knicks just don’t have the personnel, or depth, for that matter, that they can afford to take those guys off the floor for extended minutes and expect to succeed. There’s hope that Alec Burks’ return could provide some much-needed range and scoring punch from the bench, but Burks alone might not be enough to turn things around here.

The Knicks have also been lucky when it comes to their opponent’s shooting. Opponents have shot just 32.8% from three against the Knicks, well below league average. On three-point attempts that are wide-open, which the NBA defines as a shot in which no defender is within six feet of the shooter, opponents have shot just 33.9%. If that number sees some positive regression — and it likely will as the season goes on — New York may struggle to stay in games. 

There are a litany of other issues as well. The point guard position is certainly an area of concern; Elfrid Payton’s range barely extends beyond the free throw line, while Dennis Smith Jr. just hasn’t looked like the same, explosive player we saw with the Dallas Mavericks and Frank Ntilikina has struggled with injuries to start the year. Immanuel Quickley has looked solid with limited minutes, but Thibodeau has been reluctant to start him or even expand his role. And, as there is with every Thibodeau team, there could be legitimate concern over the workload of his top players: Barrett is first in the NBA in minutes played, Randle is third.

Right now, there would seem to be a lot more questions than answers for the Knicks. As currently constructed, they certainly can’t be penciled in as a playoff team. There’s too much evidence that suggests they won’t be able to consistently win games. 

That said, New York should be somewhat satisfied with their start to the season. And, if they continue to compete hard, tighten up the defense and if their younger players can take a step forward (especially from beyond the arc), they might just be able to squeeze into the play-in game in the softer Eastern Conference.

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NBA Daily: Raul Neto Seizing His Opportunity in Washington

Tristan Tucker examines Raul Neto who, in the midst of a career resurgence, has provided the Washington Wizards with some much-needed stability at the point guard position in the absence of Russell Westbrook.

Tristan Tucker

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Washington Wizards guard Raul Neto is coming off one of the more disappointing seasons of his career. Waived by the Utah Jazz, Neto joined a Philadelphia 76ers’ roster in 2019 that had some serious championship aspirations. Unfortunately, like the 76ers, Neto’s season fell flat.

For many former second round picks, a rough season could signal the conclusion of a career. But not for Neto, who has persevered and turned his career around to start the 2020-21 season.

Neto exploded onto the scene for the Wizards and has really shown an ability to hold it down on the court, especially in the wake of Russell Westbrook’s injury. He’s averaged career-highs almost across the board so far, recording 8.9 points and 1 steal per contest on outstanding percentages; Neto’s shot 52.7 from the field and 42.4 percent from three, both by far the highest of his career and, among Wizards with at least 10 games played, rank fifth and sixth on the team, respectively.

“I think I have been around different teams and I try and do whatever the team needs on the court,” Neto said. “If it needs to play with more pace or if it needs more scoring, I will try and do whatever I can to help. I think that’s how I fit so quickly on the team.”

Neto began his professional career in Brazil when he was just 16 years old, playing for the World Team in 2010 at the Nike Hoop Summit and then heading to Spain for the 2011-12 season. After two impressive seasons, the 28-year-old point guard was selected with the 47th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta then traded Neto to the Jazz where he eventually signed on for the 2015-16 NBA season.

Immediately, Neto was cast into a big role with the Jazz, starting in the season opener and starting in 53 of his 81 appearances that season. His efforts earned him a spot as a member of the World Team in the 2016 Rising Stars Challenge.

Neto would go on to play a majority of his next three seasons in the G-League, finding a hard time sticking to a role that suited him in Utah. When Philadelphia tried to remake its roster in the 2019 offseason, Neto was called in to give the team an able-shooting ball-handler, one that they desperately needed. However, Neto was, again, miscast and, while he was getting good minutes, the team as a whole struggled to find their identity and, as a result, everyone’s play suffered.

In the 2020 offseason, Neto was able to find a roster spot on the Wizards, who saw him as a potential diamond-in-the-rough type and a player that they should take a chance on. And their gamble has paid huge dividends as, at the moment, Neto has given Washington a reliable piece to play next to All-Star Bradley Beal.

“[Neto] does a tremendous job of running the team, running the offense,” Beal said after a Wizards’ preseason game. “He gets after it, he’s a real pest. I always make fun of him because he has a strong build…he’s very strong.”

Traits that likely stood out to Washington were Neto’s calm demeanor and his ability to run the offense, something that a few of his younger teammates could learn from and, hopefully, pick up themselves. Players like Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura have shown much promise as scorers and playmakers and should continue to benefit from players like Neto that are able to get them the ball accurately and consistently.

“Deni [Avdija]’s very talented, he’s very very talented,” Neto said. “He’s young so he’s got a lot to learn and get better. He’s a very good player, he’s been playing professionally overseas for a while…Rui [Hachimura] is also a very good player. Strong, plays hard and very good defense. Probably going to be our guy, like today he was guarding [Kevin Durant], he can go against guys in this league that are tall and can score.”

While the Wizards are in the midst of a disappointing season, something that may prove worthwhile in the long run may be to give Neto, who’s averaged just under 17 minutes per game, a larger role, perhaps as the team’s sixth man. When Neto is on the floor, Washington’s already potent offense gets even better — multiple lineups that feature Neto have posted an offensive rating of at least 130 points per 100 possessions — and, while it isn’t that cut-and-dry, it would behoove the Wizards to experiment and see what he can do in a larger role.

“I just try to play my game,” Neto said. “With my new team, I’m trying to understand my teammates and play the game the way Scott [Brooks] wants us to play and just move the ball and be a player out there that tries to help the team and do whatever I have to do. If I have to shoot, if I have to score depending on who I am on the court…”

“I think, number-wise, I did great,” Neto said after the Wizards’ preseason opener. “I think there’s always room for improvement and I think I’m going to work on that and take advantage of my opportunities.”

“[Neto] has heart, he has grit, he has everything we need,” Beal said. “He can shoot the leather off the ball which is what I love about him too.”

Neto isn’t the solution to all of Washington’s problems — of which, there are many — but there’s no denying the impact he’s had, even in his short time with the team. With the turnaround he’s seen, Neto has not only proven that he belongs in the NBA, but that he can serve as a solid veteran spot-starter or bench piece. Not just for a Washington team that can use just about anyone right now, either, but for any team looking for a consistent shooter and leader on the court.

“It’s easy when you have teammates like we do,” Neto said following a preseason game. “I’m just trying to work hard and play the right way. I think we have improved…we’re still going to get better.”

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NBA

Point-Counter Point: Where Should The NBA Expand?

For the first time since 2004 when the NBA allowed Charlotte to have a second go at a franchise, the NBA is seriously entertaining the idea of expansion. The NBA, like many businesses, has seen its revenue ravaged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and could look to monetize new markets as a means to recover some of those losses, the burning question remains, where to expand?

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time there are things that surface in the NBA landscape that requires a little debate, we call that Point – Counter Point. We have asked two our of writers to dive into the topic of NBA expansion, which for the first time since 2004 when the NBA allowed Charlotte to have a second go at a franchise, the NBA is seriously entertaining the idea of expansion,

The NBA, like many businesses, has seen its revenue ravaged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and could look to monetize new markets as a means to recover some of those losses, the burning question remains, where to expand?

The most popular candidate among cities that haven’t been home to an NBA franchise previously is Las Vegas, whihc makes a ton of sense and has to be a heavy favorite if the NBA does expand.

The market and potential for revenue have long made sense from a financial perspective, but the stigma around ‘Sin City’ was an issue. Things have changed quickly, though, and professional sports and the public, in general, are much more accepting of sports gambling than in previous years.

The NHL was the first professional league to enter the market with the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. The team won the Stanley Cup in their first year as an expansion team and have quickly become a popular team in the league.

The WNBA and NFL have since joined the NHL in Las Vegas with the Aces (WNBA) and LAs Vegas Raiders (NFL). The NBA could soon be joining them. Vegas is the 28th most populous city in the U.S. and generates a ton of traffic from all over the world. It just makes too much sense.

Another reason it’s only a matter of time is the NBA’s already established in the city as a league. For years the NBA Summer League has been held in the area and it has become quite a popular event. Many from the industry attend, from media to players.

Finally, Vegas has a home stadium ready to go in T-Mobile Arena.

London could be a huge move for the league and sports in general, but the timing isn’t right. Given the current circumstances in the world, London doesn’t seem as likely as other cities. That’s unfortunate, as it makes a ton of sense from the league’s perspective. Not only would it be the first NBA franchise to be based in Europe, but it would also beat the other major U.S. sports leagues in getting there.

The timing would be great too, as the league has a number of up-and-coming players from Europe. That’s caused an increase in popularity worldwide, so surely fans would be excited to get a team of their own.

Given the things that would have to be worked out to have a team playing so far from most of the league, it’s hard to imagine the NBA going through those obstacles on top of the global situation as of today. Patience will be key for London, but it’s one of the best options if things were different right now.

The last two cities that come to mind in terms of contending cities are Mexico City and Louisville. While the NBA would be wise to wait to expand overseas, Mexico City could be a great option. There’s an untapped market south of the U.S. border and it would be much easier to add to the league in short order than somewhere in Europe.

Louisville makes sense as well as a city that offers a market not being maximized by the league. It’s a great basketball city for college hoops, as is the state of Kentucky in general. Residents would buy in right away and it may offer the most loyal fanbase the NBA can establish in little time.

– Garrett Brook


The city that immediately comes to mind when thinking of expansion in the NBA Is Seattle. Home to the SuperSonics from 1967-2008, the team was a staple of the city before being bought in 2006 and subsequently moved to Oklahoma City two years later.

The SuperSonics had a lot of success in Seattle during their 41-year stint, making the playoffs 22 times, the NBA Finals three times and taking home one NBA Championship in 1979. The SuperSonics have maintained national relevance since their departure.

In a poll done by the Herald Net at the beginning of the year, 48 percent of responders said it was “very important” to bring the SuperSonics back to Seattle. In a Twitter poll done by a journalist at the same newspaper, 77 percent of respondents said that it was “very important” to bring the SuperSonics back. And, because the NHL is expanding to Seattle, the city is currently building a brand new $930 million stadium.

One of the primary reasons the team pulled out of Seattle in the first place was because the team wanted a new stadium, and the city refused to invest the money necessary to build one. All of this packaged together with Seattle’s rapid growth as a city, over 400,000 people have moved to the Seattle metro area since the SuperSonics left, which means if the NBA decides to expand, don’t be surprised if Seattle is the immediate favorite.

Another city that comes to mind when speaking of expansion is Vancouver, the former home of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Vancouver Grizzlies didn’t have much success in their six seasons, thanks mainly to poor management in the front office. If given a more successful team, Vancouver could play host to an NBA team yet again.

Attendance started in the middle part of the league in the Grizzlies opening couple of seasons in the NBA, showing that there is interest in basketball in the area, but as the team continued to struggle year after year, they slipped to the back half of the league.

Another reason cited for the Grizzlies’ departure from Vancouver was the value of the Canadian dollar at the time compared to American dollars; that is less of an issue now as the Canadian dollar has become much closer in value to the American dollar over the last 20 years. It stands to reason that a good team would draw more interest than it did in their first run in the city, especially with the sport of basketball growing in Canada as a whole.

If the NBA wants a team further east, Pittsburgh is a city with a passionate group of sports fans that would almost certainly rally around a team were they to have success early on. Pittsburgh features successful franchises in the NHL, NFL and MLB, so it stands to reason an NBA franchise would succeed in the city as well. There would also be no worries over having to build a stadium in Pittsburgh since the Penguins stadium, PPG Paints Arena, has a capacity of 19,758, which is more than the average capacity for an NBA arena.

Kansas City is another place that has a lot of basketball history, even if it was over 35 years ago. The Sacramento Kings were initially located in Kansas City from 1972-1985 and even made the Western Conference Finals in the 1980-81 season with a team that featured former Wizards’ general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Kansas City did struggle with attendance during that period, but since 1985 the city of Kansas City has grown quite a lot, with the city’s population going from 1.15 million in 1985 to nearly 1.7 million at the start of 2021. Plus, the success of the Chiefs and Royals have both had in the city in recent years – both have won championships in the last 10 years – indicates that an NBA franchise would have the ability to succeed there as well.

– Zach Dupont

EDITORIAL NOTE: While the NBA is exploring the viability of expansion, there is no timeline currently being discussed. Obviously, with the current state of the pandemic, NBA expansion is not going to happen soon, but as the world normalizes in a post-vaccine world, expansion seems more likely in the NBA than it has in almost two decades, so expect to hear more about this topic.

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