Thompson working on some big improvements

TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Hollis Thompson says he has been trying to bulk up and get stronger in the offseason.
TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Hollis Thompson says he has been trying to bulk up and get stronger in the offseason.
Posted: July 03, 2014

UNLIKE Allen Iverson, 76ers swingman Hollis Thompson has gotten "all swolled up."

The 6-8 Georgetown product finished his first NBA season in April like most rookies - exhausted, beat up and worn down. He played 77 games for coach Brett Brown, with 41 starts, and played close to 23 minutes a contest. He averaged 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds, while shooting an NBA rookie-best 40.1 percent from three-point range.

Thompson was sort of that 'tweener for Brown last season, used sometimes at small forward and other times at shooting guard. Covering the quicker guards sometimes presented problems, and being able to bang with the bigger forwards also put Thompson at a disadvantage. So to rectify one of the problems, Thompson dedicated himself to putting the time in with strength coach Jesse Wright.

"I did a lot of lifting with Jesse and a lot of eating," said Thompson, who gave his weight at about 216, 10 pounds heavier than a season ago. "I was trying to make my workouts more technique-like, with a lot of running. Guarding a lot of the NBA wings, they're grown men. Coming out of the season, coach told me I needed to get bigger and stronger, so that's what I did."

Thompson did something last season that is paramount on Brown's list of wants, and that was to improve as the season went along. As the games and minutes piled up, so did Thompson's confidence, and thus, Brown's confidence in him. A heady player, Thompson always had his coach's trust in that department, but it was the physical area in which Brown and his staff knew Thompson had to improve.

"I think Hollis looked at who he had to match up with throughout the year - LeBron James when we played Miami, Carmelo [Anthony] when we played New York, K.D. [Kevin Durant]," said Lloyd Pierce, the Sixers' assistant coach who will coach the games in the Orlando Summer League, which begin Saturday. "They are either taller or they're bigger. He played significant minutes for us. As soon as the season ended, the first thing he said he was going to do was to take a week off and then come back and not even go into a gym, he was going to go right into the weight room. He's put an effort in the weight room to get himself stronger, to get himself in better shape. Just to compete.

"Moving forward, is it a requirement? I think he's a pretty good size guy now, but if he thinks that's something that's going to help him to physically defend some of the elite players, he's off to a good start so far."

As a player who benefits from the uptempo style Brown implemented, Thompson looks at his time in the summer league as a chance to be a leader and see how his body reacts to the added bulk.

"Now people are looking at me on how to do things and show them how to do it," he said after yesterday's workout at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "I tried to get a lot of shots up through the lifting and during the weight gain. I feel stronger playing defense and going to the basket. I want to be able to still be quick, be in the right places on defense, be able to handle the ball on offense and get some more shots. I want to go down there and win, most importantly, but I want to feel out this new weight and see what weight I want to play at during the season."

Nerlens update

The big story of the summer, of course, is the progress of Nerlens Noel. After missing all of last season rcovering from a knee injury, Noel has an immeasurable amount of energy stored in his 6-11 frame, and he hopes to be able to unleash some of it when he plays in Saturday's opener.

"He looked fine," Pierce said. "One of the biggest factors to worry about is, 'What is, his conditioning like in a nonstop setting?' Today he looked great. He got up and down [the floor]. He had a monster block, had a huge steal, got a dunk in transition. All the things we want to see - him being able to be fluid, being athletic, to carry it over to both sides of the floor - he did a great job today."

Doing great in a controlled setting is getting about as boring for Noel as a bad shooter practicing foul shots. His body is ready to go. His mind is racing to try to learn where he is with his game in real competition.

"You have to play organized basketball games to get your real feel back," Noel said. "I'm looking forward to doing it down in the summer league. I won't try to put too much pressure on myself, I'll just want to go in there and do what I can do now. I just want to continue to build a culture here in Philadelphia.

"Adding Jo-Jo [Joel Embiid] to the mix, we want to get him around the team as much as possible, like I was last year and make him feel welcomed. We just want to keep building this organization to something that is going to be something to be reckoned with in the near future.

"My defense instincts are really starting to blossom back. I'm making sure my timing is down, staying on the floor on pump-fakes. I've added a lot of post work to my game. The 15- to 18-foot jump shot is still a work in progress. The form is cleaned up, so it's just about getting reps. I feel great."

More Sixers: Some summer league storylines.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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