Jason Thompson's NBA career has been about as far from picturesque as you can possibly get. The longest tenured player in Kings history has seen it all during his seven years in Sacramento: 385 losses, seven different head coaches, two owners, and constant threats to re-locate the team.
With his name constantly being tied to trade rumors and the addition of first-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein, Thompson knew his time in purple and white was running short.
"I knew it was going to eventually happen," Thompson said. "I just didn't know when, and I didn't know what team.
"There was a lot of instability. I'm like the last lone ranger. The closest one next to me had been there five years, and I had been there seven. Everyone else had moved on, so I knew it was gonna be my time eventually."
The Sixers have acquired players in a salary dump and proceeded to cut them in the past despite their cost (see: McGee, Javale), but Philadelphia is apparently committed to keeping the 28-year-old on the roster.
"He knows I can make an impact," Thompson said about his initial conversation with Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, who broke the news of the trade to him. "The rest will have to speak for itself."
Despite Philadelphia being his new home professionally, Thompson has lived in the area his entire life. He grew up in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, where he attended Lenape High School. He lives in Philadelphia during the offseason, and frequents PCOM for summer workouts.
Growing up 25 minutes outside of the city also made him a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan. During his youth he had the pleasure of watching the meteoric rise of Allen Iverson with the Sixers, and Donovan McNabb as he led the Eagles to five NFC Championship appearances. More so than any other professional athlete currently playing for one of the major four sports teams in town, he knows how starved Philadelphia is for a winner right now.
"Philly fans are tough, and it doesn't help when they haven't made it, other than when the Phillies made in 2008," he said. "It's not that we haven't seen it in too long of a while, but Philly fans want [a championship] every year or every other year."
Both Nik Stauskas and Carl Landry, who played with Thompson in Sacramento, reached out to him to learn about the place he knows best.
"They know I always talk about it, but they don't understand South Jersey being Philly, and North Jersey being New York," he joked.
The Rider University and Lenape High School alumni think both Stauskas, a former Sixers target in the 2014 NBA Draft, as well as Landry, can make a legitimate impact on this young team.
"Nik is a three point threat, especially with us having good bigs. He can stretch the floor. He's a legit 6' 7", and more athletic than people give him credit for," Thompson said.
"With Carl, he's been in the playoffs. He brings veteran leadership. He's been on winning teams."
Thompson's career has been filled with losses that have followed him like the plague, although by no real fault of his own. The Kings were a franchise that (for the most part) drafted very poorly, and trotted out a ton of lackluster talent. While the Sixers do have some promising young players in the mix, but successful seasons have been so few and far between that the city would probably throw them a parade if they went .500 in 2015-16. Thompson isn't worried about win totals, and focused more so on the damage this team can do in the future.
"When you're not winning, you can only go up from there, so that's definitely a positive," he said. We're a young and up and coming team, and we're just trying to shock people."
In regards to his game, Thompson is working hard to try and extend his shooting range. According to BasketballReference.com, he took 25% of his shots between 16 feet and the three-point line, his highest volume in that region of the floor since his second year in the league. Playing around the perimeter is something he anticipates he'll be doing a lot this year.
"I'm going to try and bring out my versatility more, something I did earlier in my career," Thompson stated. "Shoot more three's, spread the floor, handle the ball more where I'm comfortable with it, and just having fun with the game. If you look earlier in my career, I'd rebound, bring the ball up, spread the floor, and use this stuff to the best of my abilities.
"That's when I was having fun, and putting nice numbers up. Hopefully I can get back to that and hopefully that can lead to me having fun, double-doubles, and wins."
Working on his perimeter shooting will certainly help him lock down plenty of minutes, as most of the Sixers current big men play in the low post. Regardless, between Thompson, Landry, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and possibly Richaun Holmes, there are a lot of guys competing for only so much playing time.
"I mean it's something I'm not used to," Thompson admitted. "There's times where guys get drafted...trades have happened, and I ended up still starting and being the focal point of the team. It's nothing I've ever been a part of. But you just go in there and prove yourself, and know you're worthy of a lot of minutes."
No matter what role Thompson plays on the court, one thing he'll be no matter what is a mentor to the younger players. As the roster currently stands, Thompson is the second oldest player behind the 31-year-old Landry. He's very excited to share his insight with his new, wide-eyed teammates.
"If they have any questions -- I've played in big moments and big games -- and if they ever need advice, I'll make sure I can let them know, and make sure they get better," Thompson said.
While Thompson will surely cherish his time spent in Sacramento, Philadelphia now gives him the chance to start fresh in the city he knows and loves. It's a perfect environment for him to thrive, and grow with the team as they move towards competing for a title.