Malcolm Thomas enjoyed his experience in the NBA Development League.But he wanted to take the next step.
In order to suit up in an NBA uniform, Thomas believed that heading to China would quicken the pace.
Before he boarded a plane, the phone call came.
Welcome to the 76ers.
“I was going to go to China and this came along and I couldn’t pass it up,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Every year has been different.”
Thomas, a former All-Defensive performer in the NBA Development League, is thrilled to showcase his skills to the Sixers.
In his Philadelphia debut, Thomas had four points and five rebounds in a season-opening 103-91 loss at Indiana Wednesday night.
Earlier this week at practice, Thomas’ smile told it all.
“I think this is a better opportunity to accomplish my dream of playing in the NBA,” said Thomas, who went undrafted in 2011 out of San Diego State. “I never really had that, so I couldn’t pass it up. This is a great feeling and it’s what I’ve been working for.”
In order to retain a roster spot in the NBA, a player usually must have a special skill.For Thomas, it’s all about rebounding.
“You have to have an identifiable NBA skill and I said, ‘What’s yours?’ and he said, ‘I rebound.’ That’s what he does,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “He’s getting a chance, which is something he really hasn’t had before. He sees there are minutes and some young guys he’s competing with and he might see a little more daylight here than he’s seen in other places.”
Thomas was rewarded with 16 minutes off the bench against the Pacers.While he continues to learn the offense, there’s always the opportunity to rebound and play gritty defense.
“They haven’t told me too much, but I expect it to be what it always is and that’s to come in and play defense,” Thomas said.
Before the Sixers called, Thomas was working out in San Diego and preparing for a stint in China.The future is still unclear, but Thomas has proven himself in the D-League and in very brief moments with several other NBA teams.
Now he’s a member of the youngest team in the league. And he couldn’t be happier.
“My D-League experience was great,” Thomas said. “I learned a lot and it helped me mature as a player and as a man.”