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Jason Thompson: 'Zeljko is like an encyclopedia'

Nov 14, 2017 by Jason Thompson - Istanbul, Turkey Print
Jason Thompson: 'Zeljko is like an encyclopedia'

Hello from Istanbul! It's a beautiful city that doesn't get the credit that it deserves. When you land you don't know how big the city is. As an American, there are a lot of things that are similar to the States as far as all the types of restaurants and the malls. When I signed, even from social media, I knew how passionate Fenerbahce fans are. They brought me in with open arms. And it was the same when I landed; they were there at the airport and things like that, especially coming off a EuroLeague championship. For the city, everywhere you go you get a lot of support from the fans. And there are a lot of historical places to go. When you have time, when there are no practices or games, it's a great place to have family and friends come to visit. It's very comfortable because things are so similar here to the United States.

When I came, I didn't know there were European and Asian sides to Istanbul! Obviously being a city, they are very similar, but they have their differences. It seems that the European side is a little livelier, has more stores, malls, clubs and things like that. I think of the Asian side as more homely, more family-oriented and so on. We have our arena on the Asian side and that's where most of the players live. It's a great place to live and it's not that far from the European side. There are many bridges and tunnels. I have been kind of lucky with the traffic. I know a lot of people say the traffic is similar to Los Angeles and New York. I try to learn from my teammates not to leave at those times when I know there's traffic. I'll drive at different times if need be. If I am going to be in traffic, I'd rather be in an Uber or taxi.

This is my first EuroLeague season after playing in China last year. I was only in the CBA for one year. I was in the NBA for eight seasons. Adjusting to playing in the CBA was different. I was with one organization – the Sacramento Kings – for seven seasons, which is not really heard of in this age. Then I changed teams in the NBA and then league. Going to China was not the easiest transition. It's a little different attendance-wise and there are certain types of rules. Also here, there is the Turkish League and the EuroLeague, where we use different basketballs. The style of play is different. There are some things that may be called here, different rules and travels, that may not be in the States. There are things that as a basketball player and a pro, you have to be able to adjust. That's your job. But it is different and takes time to adjust.

In the NBA and the CBA, it's a lot about numbers and what can you do for your team statistically. On great teams in Europe, from top to bottom, all the players are great, so there is a difference when it comes to the amount of shots or your statistics. Here you can have a big game and have 10 points and 5 rebounds, but in the NBA or CBA, you might not have the same impact. When you have a balanced team like we do, and you have those types of points or rebounds or steals in crucial moments of the game, it means a lot to the team.

The EuroLeague is a great kind of basketball. You can see the similarities to the NBA when it comes to the level of play. I see a lot of familiar faces of guys I have played against over the years in the NBA. The level is high, the fans are very passionate at home and on the road. Pretty much every player gives there all throughout all the games, because they know how important it is how you start the season. And getting to the playoffs and the Final Four.

We have a Hall of Fame coach in Zeljko Obradovic and a guy who has a resume to prove his worth. Ever since I signed, when I talked to him on the phone, and then in practices and games, I try to absorb the information like a sponge on both sides of the floor. Zeljko is like an encyclopedia. He has a tough reputation, but very valid because of the type of success that he's had. He's a hard-nosed coach, but I can relate to those types of coaches, because when coaches are hard on you they want the most out of you, and I can thrive like that. I feel that I can keep getting better with his expertise.

Finally, I have to thank our fans for their great support! It's been a blessing. They brought me in with open arms. Throughout training camp, preseason and the games, they have always had my back, knowing the adjustment for me. Everything is kind of new for me and they have been helping me through the process, knowing that things will keep getting better. I want to thank them for the passion that they give to our team. We see tons of blue and gold on the road and it helps us out confidence-wise as a team when we see our colors on the road.