ATHENS - Here is my story in today's papers on Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, who left Georgia last year and are now coming off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was an enjoyable story to do, and I hope it's somewhat enjoyable to read. Thompkins and Leslie were very generous with their time; they recognized me right away when I came in the locker room, and immediately sat next to each other to be interviewed. They're obviously still close, in fact probably closer than they were at Georgia.
It is a long story, so maybe reserve some time over lunch or a very long coffee break. There was also some stuff that didn't make it in the story:
- Thompkins describing the life of an NBA player, especially the travel: “You’re up in the air. You’re down, you play. You get back up in the air. You come down, you play. You get right back. It’s just something that you have to be on top of everything. You’ve got to make sure you’re on time for everything.”
Then I half-jokingly asked Leslie if there were groupies in the NBA. He laughed and answered: “It’s the NBA, they’re there. It’s fun, hanging out with these guys.” (He was pointing at his Clipper teammates, not a bunch of groupies.)
- The condensed schedule, which doesn't allow for many practices, is making it hard for Thompkins and Leslie to move up the pecking order.
“Kinda. But they know what we can do. They drafted us,” Leslie says. “It’s just all about being prepared when your time comes. I’m sure it’ll come soon so we’re just working for that moment.”
- They're both enjoying being part of The Clip Show, or The Air Show, featuring Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The Clippers have been the laughingstock of the NBA, but with Griffin and Paul they're now second in the Western Conference. And Thompkins says he learning from playing behind Griffin.
“He plays the four, I play the four. So any time I can pick his brain I can do it," Thompkins said. "But as far as being a show it’s a show every night. We always get everybody’s best punch. The other night, I actually heard the ‘Beat LA’ chant. It was crazy.”
- Leslie did stay in class at UGA after declaring for the draft last summer.
“I had an English class. I can’t even remember," he said, smiling. "After awhile I really stopped going. But it was cool to still be going there.”
Thompkins admits he left in mid-semester to train California. But he left in good standing so it didn’t affect the team’s APR, according to head coach Mark Fox. Thompkins said he has roughly 20 credits left, and plans on returning to get his degree.
- So how are they developing as players? Thompkins said he’s shooting the ball well, and becoming a better athlete.
Leslie said he’s also shooting the ball better and becoming more patient. Apparently he's also not dunking as much.
“He can’t jump no more,” Thompkins says, kiddingly. “He’s a basketball player now. He got moves now. He can play basketball instead of just being a guy that can jump over people. I’m happy with the player he’s becoming. I’m glad he can play the floor game now. He’s such a better player now than when we got to Georgia and when we were at Georgia, just because we have more time to work on our game.”
- And despite not playing much in games, the pair of rookies feel they're developing better than they would have by staying their senior years.
“We don’t play that much, so we’ve got so much time to work on our game,” Leslie said. “It gives us plenty of time to work on every aspect of our game. At Georgia, since we were the guys at Georgia, we couldn’t work on our game like that. We had games, we had to do all that stuff. Right now since we’re not playing at all.”
“Even in-season (here) we get to do a lot of working out,” Thompkins said. “But back at Georgia there were days we would have to sit out of practice because our legs were so tired and stuff like that. But of course in the offseason at Georgia, being seniors we definitely would have known what ways we could have gotten better in the offseason. But here it’s like a year-round workout. And it’s great. These guys push us every day.”