In addition to averaging career highs of 17.6 ppg. (19.8 in his last 10) and 6.6 rpg., Thad has become the leader of this Sixers’ roster and a Philadunkia nation favorite during one of the toughest seasons in the history of this franchise.
The bonus to his heightened play this year is that Thad remains one of the classiest guys in the League.
As he pushes for a spot on the 2014 East All-Star squad, Thad took some time to jump on the phone with Philadunkia’s Jeff McMenamin and answer questions on the standout season he is having; his alleged trade request and the advice he is giving to his young teammates.
Q&A after the J…
McMenamin: Let me set one thing straight, I’ve known you a long time now. You and I both know that you never made a formal or sent in a written trade request right?
Thad: No, of course not. When I heard… I just laughed at it and went back to playing with my kids like I usually do. Things like that never really get me riled up or anything like that. Me personally, I’m just trying to be the same person who I’ve been and that’s being professional and doing things the right way. I always just try to do my job at the best of my abilities in order to help the team win.
McMenamin: What are you thinking when these false reports come out like they did?
Thad: I don’t really worry about it too much, just because it’s the nature of the business and the game. It happens and it is what it is. It’s not a situation that I would like to be in, but it happened. I think I silenced all that talk pretty quickly though and I’ve let my play speak for itself.
McMenamin: Are you surprised that your name has been at the center of so many rumors right now?
Thad: No. I know I’m the last player standing here. I’ve been part of the franchise since ’07 and it’s old news to me. I don’t worry about anyone saying this or that. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I just focus on my job — playing basketball the way I know I can play.
McMenamin: In the meantime, you’ve been playing the best basketball of your career. How can you describe the way you’ve been playing?
Thad: Just playing as aggressive as I can. I try to get up a lot of shots after practice and I’m constantly trying to add new things to my game. I think I’ve been taking a new approach to the game after each and every game. I’m picking and choosing now the right times and situations to attack my opponents. It’s resulted in me scoring in bunches, but I’m also always trying to create havoc on defense.
McMenamin: Coaches always talk about spacing on the basketball court. Do you feel like being a veteran in this League now for a little while, you’ve kind of mastered that area of your game?
Thad: I would probably say yes. I think the biggest thing with spacing is being able to thrive in certain areas of the court. I’ve always been good at moving without the basketball and getting to a spot where I can get an easy shot off. Now it’s more of the mental decision of whether or not I should be picking a spot to pop or if I should be driving to the bucket. It’s just a matter of knowing when I’m supposed to in certain sets and situations.
McMenamin: You had Andre two years ago get an All-Star bid and Jrue last year. Do you think you’ve proved enough to the fans and the coaches to get your shot this year?
Thad: I would love it to finally be an All-Star and to be part of All-Star weekend. That’s up to the coaches and the fans to make that pick and if they think I should be part of it than that proves to me how good of a year I’ve been having. If they don’t than hey, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always the opportunity to try again next year and the year after that and to potentially make it one day.
McMenamin: When talking with Jrue last year after his selection, he talked about how the coaches not only looked at the great year he had been having last year, but at the whole body of work throughout his career when they made their decision to select him. Do you think when coaches look at you this year that they’ll see this same growth and factor that in when the time comes?
Thad: Definitely. I think a lot of coaches see what type of player I am. Not just this year, but years before this. I don’t think anybody would not like to have me on their team. I’m a guy that can do a lot of things on the basketball court. I can defend, I can shoot three’s, I can step out and hit the mid-range jumper, I can drive to the basket and beat guys off the dribble, I’m always bringing energy and I’m all over the court. I think that’s what coaches are looking for in a player. As a big man, to be as good in transition as I am is also a rare thing. I know how to start it (the transition) and where to be on the court in order to get our team easy buckets.
McMenamin: You attempted just 12 three’s in the past two seasons, you’ve already attempted 87 this season and are second on the team with 39-percent shooting. How important to you was adding that aspect to your game?
Thad: The way the league is shaping towards is stretch fours and a lot more big guys you’re seeing have learned how to step out and shoot jumpers. I definitely wanted to be a part of how the game’s shaping. If I didn’t adjust my game then it would be harder for me in the future to be on the court. That part of my development was a great thing for me and my trainer helped me a lot with that process. Hopefully I can continue to get better at it and to keep making those shots each and every year.
McMenamin: People always look at a players career and say, “he was playing in his prime in those 3-4 years.” Would you say that you’ve reached your prime now as a player in the league?
Thad: No. Not at all. I’m only 25 years old. You’re not supposed to reach your prime until you’re 27-28 years old. I’m definitely not in my prime and I think there’s still room for more growth. I’m now in a situation where I’m kind of forced to play better basketball, where I’m forced to take more shots and where I’m forced to be that leader for the team. We’re all still growing on this team and I still have a few more years before I can really say that I’m in my prime.
McMenamin: A lot has been said about the Sixers bench this season, an area where you used to thrive in, in the past. What kind of mindset did you have back when you had that role and what kind of things have you been preaching to your teammates who are in the same position?
Thad: When I was coming off the bench, I was a guy like Lou Williams who could come in and score in bunches. I’d have 10 point quarters where I’d come in for 5-6 minutes and just go as hard as I could on the court. I tell those guys to come in like I did and do the things that they know how to do on the court. Don’t try to play outside of yourself and get away from your game. Try to capture the essence of what you can do because your time is limited.
McMenamin: Do you think that’s the main problem of a lot of guys coming off the bench in this League?
Thad: Without a doubt. A lot of guys in this league feel like they need to be starters and have that mindset, but if you know what your role is and you flourish in your role then you can potentially make a lot of money in this league and stick around for a long time.
McMenamin: Going back a little bit now. The Sixers had a 4-2 trip out West where it seemed that both the bench and the team as a whole was really playing well together. Was it the holiday season that brought you guys together? Why do you think you guys played so well at that time?
Thad: I think we had a great chance to go home and refresh our minds right before the trip started. Immediately after that we had two good days of practice. In our first game we lost, but it was close and we felt like we really played well together as a unit. But obviously we went on to win our next four games and it was great for us to come home with that feeling of togetherness that we felt when we were on that road trip. Hopefully we can get back to that structure and continue to have fun and just go all out and win basketball games. We felt like we were the team we wanted to be that started the season, that played at a fast pace and got into other teams defensively and really opened up our strength of transition basketball.
McMenamin: You’ve been teammates with Evan and Spencer for a while now and really look at them as brothers at this point. Do they get a sense that their time as a Sixer is close to the end?
Thad: They’re taking it the same way I’ve been taking it. They’re not really interested in the rumors or waiting for the trade deadline or anything like that. They’re just playing basketball and continuing to make themselves better players. The focus right now is the team and giving it our all on the court every night and we’re going to continue to focus on that. I talk to those guys all the time and it’s never about trade rumors or wanting to be anywhere else, it’s about how we can help eachother get better as basketball players.
McMenamin: Speaking of Evan and Spencer, obviously they’ve shown their progression as players this year alongside you. You’re all having career years here. How proud of them are you, being that you’ve played together so long and have seen the kind of work they put in everyday?
Thad: I’m very proud of those guys. I see them in the gym everyday putting in the work they need to help our unit get better. There’s no better thing than to see us grow together. We’re a group and a unit, we’re the three brothers and we’ve been playing together here now for the past four years. To see us continue to grow in this league and to continue to be great teammates to eachother is a great thing.
McMenamin: I’ll give you a hypothetical…The Sixers get two of the top 10 picks next year…Nerlens Noel comes back fully healthy…Would that be enough to make you want to stay in Philly once your contract is up?
Thad: All that contract talk is so far down the line that I’m not even thinking about that. I still have this year left, next year and I believe I can opt out after that. You can ask me this question again next year around this time and maybe I might be able to give you a better answer but I’m not worried about that at all right now.
The draft is in June, Mike (Carter-Williams) is flourishing right now and we have Nerlens coming back very soon. (Nerlens) is a big time shot blocker and defender that is something we’ll definitely need down the road. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I will tell you that I’m here and I want to continue to rebuild and restructure this team. I’m helping these young guys grow and I’m growing as a player myself still.
Jeff McMenamin is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @Sixersblog.
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