Not only does he, like the rest of his League’s players, not know the particulars of the new CBA he’ll be playing under when/if this season starts, he also, as a free agent, doesn’t know what team he’ll be suiting up for. And even if he — as is widely expected — returns to the 76ers, he’s completely in the dark about his new boss (now-Sixers majority owner Josh Harris) because the terms of the lockout bar them from so much as exchanging emails.
So you could say Thad has a lot on his mind.
But despite this uncertainty, Thursday afternoon from his hometown of Memphis, Thad made some time for us — opening up about the long offseason, his training regiment and getting recognized in airports.
Q and A, as always, after the J.
Philadunkia: We have to at least acknowledge the lockout in this interview, so let’s lead off with two quick, non-political work stoppage questions. Are you watching the lockout proceedings especially closely considering your free agent status? Specifically what’s going to happen with the mid-level?
Thad: Definitely. I can’t do anything but watch. It’s something I have to pay attention to and am going to continue to pay attention to.
Philadunkia: How much contact have you had with team union reps Jason Kapono and Spencer Hawes?
Thad: I’m always getting updates from Spence and Jason. We’ve been on the phone, texting, going back and forth.
Philadunkia: Okay, enough lockout talk — back to basketball. In the early fall, you had a very solid offer to go play over seas. Why didn’t you take the $3 million dollar deal to play for a team in the Chinese league (CBA)?
Thad: I’m fine. I’m not in a rush. I always want to be over here and I’d rather play in the NBA than the CBA. It was a nice offer to go over to China, but I’m trying to think long-term instead of short-term. And here’s the thing: the NBA is a long-term situation for me.
Philadunkia: How are you staying in shape?
Thad: I’m in the gym each and every day. Lifting in the morning. Doing skill work in the evening. I’ve taken a few yoga classes. Done some P90-X (Laughs). Doing a lot of different things. Trying to stay in shape. I’ve been doing a lot of running.
Philadunkia: Who helps you design your routine?
Thad: I’ve been a professional athlete the past four years, so I have some guys in Memphis who have been training me the past four years. And me and my agent, we’ve been going back and forth with different things and we have a pretty set plan. It’s actually pretty much the same plan the Sixers have had me on the past four years. Throughout the summer they usually touch base and keep me on a specific plan, so I’m just sticking with the plan they’ve had me on every other summer.
I’m not able to really play basketball so I have to do a lot of skill work and a lot, a lot, of running. I’m doing speed and agility work and more lifting and more strength and conditioning stuff than I’ve done any other summer. It’s crazy, cause I haven’t been able to do pick up and five-on-five and all that other stuff.
I’m doing stadiums. Going to the gym. Doing weight, speed and agility stuff. A lot of power lifting, a lot of jumps. And then we go out onto the track. We run like a mile, two miles. It’s been pretty intense. We do like the 40, 50 backwards. We do a lot of “flys”.
Philadunkia: Who are you working out with?
Thad: It’s just me, my strength coach Marty Jenkins, and then I do all my skill work on the court. I was doing it in Houston with John Lucas, but then I came home to Memphis about a month and a half ago and started doing it with a guy named James Harvey.
Philadunkia: Who did you play with in Houston?
Thad: Lucas had Deandre Jordan, his son of course, a few other guys. Derrick Williams came through. JR [Smith] came through. We had a few guys. Tristan [Thompson] came through. A lot of college guys. A lot of pro guys. A lot of high school guys. It was a good mixture.
Philadunkia: When you travel, do people recognize you now?
Thad: Oh yeah, it’s getting pretty crazy. I think I’ve kind of made a name for myself. People recognize me and they want to talk about the NBA lockout and stuff like that. I’m just like ‘Yeah, you know. I hate the situation but we’re gonna get though it.’ But I don’t like talking about it too much.
It’s cool though, I have no problem with [my celebrity] at all. I’m a guy that doesn’t yearn for attention, but when it comes I’ll sit down with fans, talk with them, stuff like that. I try to keep it cool with them and be a regular person.
Philadunkia: Have you been in touch with your Sixers teammates?
Thad: Yeah. We talk all the time. I was just talking to EB five minutes ago. He’s in Philly right now working on game training. I talk to Evan, Dre—he was actually here in Memphis for Midnight Madness—Lou, Jrue. We’ve all been keeping in contact. And Spencer, we speak all the time.
Philadunkia: Is ‘Dre on the way out?
Thad: I’m not sure. He’s not sure either. It’s hard to tell with the lockout, so we pretty much are just playing it by ear and just trying to work out the situation at hand.
Philadunkia: What can you say about the new ownership group?
Thad: I can’t say anything because of the situation at hand, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting with them, and talking to them, and discussing my new deal. Starting negotiating with them and stuff like that.
I didn’t get a chance to watch [ their introductory press conference].
Philadunkia: Whenever the season starts, are you going be a Philadelphia 76er?
Thad: I hope so. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’m still a free agent, and we’re going to have to work that out once the lockout’s over.
Philadunkia: Given the team’s recent track record, why do you want to be a Sixer?
Thad; I think we can build something big. We have a great mixture of guys, a great group of guys, that can get the job done, and we’re just one or two players away. It could be a great experience. Hopefully we could go further than we have in the past. And we’ve definitely got something to look forward to in working with coach Collins, he’s a great coach. A players coach. With him we go out there and do our job.
Philadunkia: You had a roller-coaster couple of years before Collins came in, then last season you almost won Sixth Man of the Year. Is that a coincidence?
Thad: It’s all about being put in the right situation. I think coach Collins did a great job of putting me in the right situation most of the time. It was just about me going out there and taking advantage of it. I went out there and took advantage of it nine times out of ten. So it definitely worked out great for me. It was a great experience playing for a veteran coach and a coach who played the game. He definitely helped me grow a lot. Grow as a player and grow as a man, so it was definitely a great experience playing for him. I loved each and every minute of it.
Philadunkia: Can you become a star in this League?
Thad: Yes. Definitely. I can go out there and score with the best of them. It’s just a matter of me going out there and doing it. I think the time is definitely now for me to soar and take off, and I think coach Collins is definitely the coach to help me do it, to put me in a position to do it.
I think I have to get to the free throw line more. Make more medium range jumpers. Not necessarily threes, but that shot EB knocks down. The free throw line or the corners. I average 12 or 13 points a game off easy buckets off transition. I start going to the line more, that’s another three or four. That puts me at 15 or 16 points a game. Then I hit a few more jumpers a game that puts me at 20.
Philadunkia: What do you want to get out of the rest of your career?
Thad: I want a championship. I want to be, evolve to be, a top 25 to 30 player in the league. An All-Star player. I want to make the All-Star game a couple of times. I want to be one of those guys who makes All-Defensive team, and I want to be able to play for my country.
Philadunkia: Before I let you go Thad, we’re going to run through some rapid fire questions. Ready?
Thad: I’m ready.
Philadunkia: Who’s the best player in the NBA?
Philadunkia: Who’s the best athlete?
Philadunkia: Who’s the toughest player?
Thad: Dwyane Wade.
Philadunkia: Who’s the funniest?
Thad: Gilbert Arenas.
Philadunkia: Whose game do you admire the most?
Philadunkia: Who’s the smartest?
Philadunkia: If you weren’t playing in the NBA, what would you do?
Thad: I’d be trying out for USA track.
Philadunkia: The 2012 NBA Champions are…
Thad: Whatever team I’m on.