Los Angeles Clippers forward Trey Thompkins is about to begin his second NBA season. Drafted early in the second round of the 2011 draft, Thompkins appeared in 24 games last year for the 40-26 Clippers squad. A stud for three years at the University of Georgia, Thompkins finished with more than 1,000 career points as a Bulldog and his 17.7 PPG and 8.2 RPG earned him a spot alongside John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins on the coach-selected first-team All-SEC as a sophomore. Thompkins is ready to step up his role on a Clippers team with deep postseason aspirations.
Thompkins is continuing to rehab his bone bruise on his left knee and was unable to play in Summer League action in July. The injury will also keep him from traveling with the team to its exhibition games in China against Miami on both Oct. 11 and Oct. 14 (Chauncey Billups also will miss the trip with injury rehab). Dime recently caught up with the 6-10 forward to talk about his first full NBA summer and offseason, getting drafted with his boy (and fellow Bulldog) Travis Leslie, being Caron Butler’s security guard on the team plane, and his favorite professional wrestler of all time.
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Dime: How are things going? How’s the offseason been?
Trey Thompkins: Everything’s been cool. Just learning a lot, man.
Dime: This has obviously been a different offseason than last year with the lockout. What’s been different now that you’ve had your first “regular” NBA summer?
TT: It’s been great. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really participate in Summer League like I wanted to, but I’ve been in the gym every day and everybody’s been in the gym every day and we’ve been bonding and growing – and everybody’s working. So I think this thing’s going to be good.
Dime: Anybody in workouts that’s surprised you?
TT: That’s a hard question, man. I’ve seen Jamal [Crawford] a few times, but now that he’s in the gym with me, it’s like you really get to see a guy who has a crazy handle on the ball. That was a big surprise for me. It’s hard for people to stay in front of him.
Dime: Are you 100 percent healthy? Are you ready to go?
TT: Not right now. I have a bone bruise, but things are moving real fast. I should be back in no time.
Dime: What are your personal goals for this season? Any specific things you’re trying to improve upon from last year going into your second NBA season?
TT: Just being the guy that the team needs and doing whatever it takes. If it’s defensive rebounding, if it’s just knocking down open shots. Just being on the floor will feel good.
Dime: You were lucky enough to get drafted by the Clippers where you could play and prepare with two of the best point guards of the last decade in Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. What have those guys taught you about the game?
TT: CP, he always talks to me about David West, because he said D-West is one of his good friends and they spent a lot of time together picking-and-rolling-and-popping and things like that. He says he sees a lot of that in me, so I’m always listening to everything he says. Chauncey, he just gives me small pointers — he just lets me now to be in an open area in case somebody needs me, so I’ve always tried to do it.
Dime: Talk to me a little about Travis Leslie. You guys played together at Georgia, then you get drafted by the same team. Did you ever think that would happen? And what’s it been like having your boy with you?
TT: Man, what people don’t really know is that he’s my best friend. You know what I’m saying? We’ve been through everything together and I’ve seen him grow as a player. He’s become a much more polished player than when we were in college. And we both have. He’s a workaholic, just like I am. We spend all our time together and most of it’s in the gym.
Dime: Do you still get nervous before games?
TT: At the beginning of the season I did. I don’t really get it anymore. It’s time to step up and be a part of the team and fill a role and be productive, so there’s no more time for it.
Dime: Most nerves for you: before the tip at the Georgia state basketball championship game in 2008, before the first round game against Washington in the 2011 NCAA tournament, or the first time coach looked over at you and sent you to the scorer’s table to enter your first NBA game?
TT: What do you think?
Dime: I’m going to guess the NBA.
TT: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no question, man! That was exhilarating. It was crazy.
Dime: Did you know you’d play that night?
TT: No, coach never told me. He just always told me to stay ready. And he never told me when or where, just be ready at all times. And I was.
Dime: What do you expect out of your team this year?
TT: I don’t know, man. I see so much in that locker room, it’s like I don’t really want to say what we’re going to do because I don’t know yet. Because we have so much potential to do so much. You know what I mean?
Dime: Yeah and you guys added some serious veterans. Grant Hill and Crawford, and Caron’s still there and Lamar’s coming. That’s a lot of veteran talent, guys with a lot of experience. What’s it like being surrounded by that much NBA experience and knowledge?
TT: Man, learning from them is a blessing — to be able to sit and listen to what they’re saying and see what they’re doing on a daily basis and how they operate as people. It just makes you an all-around better person and obviously a better basketball player.
Dime: I found a YouTube video the other day of your teammates talking about a game you all play on the team plane called “Got Em”…
TT: Yeah. [Laughs]
Dime: Honestly, how annoying was it to have to worry about falling asleep, after a game, on the plane, traveling from city to city?
TT: Dude, I sleep like crazy, so it was bad for me. But at the same time, everybody at some point fell asleep because it was just so much. You couldn’t always be awake. And DJ [DeAndre Jordan] was just lucky enough to be up when everyone else was sleeping. And he started it and everybody just ran with it, and it was cool. For a while, I sat next to Caron and he would, like, put a cover over his head and then tell me, “hey rook, if they walk up on me, you tap me while I’m asleep so I wake up.”
Dime: Did anybody go the whole year without getting caught?
TT: Noooooo. Nooooo, not at all. Maybe the picture wasn’t posted of them, but they got them.
Dime: I’ve heard you’re a big wrestling fan, is that true?
TT: Yeah, man, like crazy.
Dime: If you had to pick one, who is your all-time favorite wrestler?
TT: Ultimate Warrior.
Dime: Good choice. Last question: what sneakers are you going to be wearing this year?
TT: adidas, man. I’m adidas.
Dime: Any particular style?
TT: Not yet. I don’t know, I got a few to choose from, so I got to pick one of them. It’s going to be a hard one, though.
What do you think of Thompkins’ potential?
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