The Sixers are nearing the end of stage one of a rebuild process that still has many stages ahead. This was a year of cleaning house, auditioning players and bettering skills whenever possible.
Hollis Thompson fits two of those three categories. He came to the Sixers as a free agent, going undrafted in 2012 and then spending the 2012-13 season in the NBA Development League.
His résumé says he is a three-point specialist, having left Georgetown after three seasons with the school's all-time best shooting percentage from behind the arc (44 percent).
But what Thompson did in college did not immediately transfer to the pros. In 48 NBDL games last year, Thompson shot just 29 percent from long range. Still, the Sixers must have seen something promising because in 72 games this season, 37 as a starter, Thompson has made 41 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
“Hollis has been big for us this year with three-pointers and making plays,” Thaddeus Young said. “Lately he has been shooting the ball with great confidence and I want him to continue to do that.”
Saturday night, Thompson connected on 6 of 8 attempts from three with two of those makes coming in the final 29 seconds, when the Sixers were desperate but not out of the game in which the Nets ultimately won by four points (see story).
“Hollis is one of these guys that has invested time and to see him come out and get rewarded for that especially in the situation that he did,” Brett Brown said. “He sat and sat and this is classic NBA stuff, now come in and make a three to bail us out [to try and] help us win a game and he did.”
Thompson went to the bench with 8:22 to play Saturday night and his team trailing by 13 points. But with 29.3 seconds remaining and the Sixers down six, Brown called for Thompson. Six seconds later, the Sixers were within three points thanks to Thompson’s fifth three of the game.
Then with 11.5 seconds to go and the Sixers down five, Thompson made another three.
“I try not to think about it; there is not really an option,” Thompson said of the situation. “Whether you are warm or not you just have to go in and try and make shots and tonight I made shots.”
Brown shared a story about how one of the great shooters the NBA has ever known actually prepared for those very situations.
“Chip Engelland, who I rate the NBA’s best shooting coach, worked with Steve Kerr,” Brown said. “Part of his program would be you would bring him into the gym and give him a newspaper and let him sit there in a chair for 20 minutes, or 15 minutes, and then say come out and make a three.”
“That is what shooters are supposed to do. You are a hired gun. Hollis has become more than that, but he sat there and then went in and made two big threes. He’s done a great job.”