CAMDEN, N.J. — For as long as Nerlens Noel has been a member of the Sixers, Hollis Thompson was always around. As the team went through trade after trade and the locker room became a temporary landing spot for many players’ journeys through the NBA, Noel and Thompson remained the two originals from the beginning of "The Process."
On Wednesday, the Sixers waived Thompson, leaving Noel as the only player left from the 2013-14 squad.
“I see it as survival of the fittest,” Noel said after practice Thursday. “It’s just how it is right now. I think with all the guys that have come through, they’re obviously in better places — Mike (Michael Carter-Williams) with Chicago, he's playing well over there, E.T. (Evan Turner). As time goes along, just continue to work."
The Sixers made the decision to waive Thompson as the deadline to guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season neared (see story). Parting ways with the shooting guard gave the team roster flexibility as it pertains to trades and potential free-agent signings for its most glaring need at point guard.
“He never went away,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said of Thompson. “Every year you wondered, is Hollis still going to be here? And he never went away. This was the first time we considered it seriously.”
The Sixers informed Thompson of the move a day before they left for a two-game road swing out of fairness to the longstanding member of the team. Knowing they had a Saturday deadline, they didn’t think it would have been fair to send him home in the middle of the trip.
“He has been with me the longest,” Brown said. “He’s gone through every second of it with me. You look across at him and there’s a respect and there’s a fondness that you can’t help but have for Hollis Thompson.
“The thing I feel comforted by is he does have an elite, identifiable NBA skill in that he can shoot (career 38.9 three-point percentage). It’s a sought-after commodity, and he has it. I feel like somebody’s going to pick him up. I don’t feel we’re going to see Hollis Thompson removed from the NBA.”
Thompson received high praise for his work ethic. In 2012, he went undrafted out of Georgetown. By 2017, he had 3½ years of NBA experience.
“Hollis was a great teammate,” Noel said. “He was the spirit of the team. He was just a jokester that made everybody laugh. It's definitely tough to see him go, but you recognize this NBA is a business. That’s how it’s always been. I wish him the best wherever he [goes] next."
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot moves up in the depth chart as a result of the Thompson move. The rookie will see an increase in playing time (he is averaging 8.1 minutes per game) and wants to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
“It’s a young guy. Sometimes the youth makes mistakes, but he is part of our future,” Brown said. “Having Timmy now here and trying to play him more, you’re going to see an athleticism on the wings, you’re going to see a fearless mindset attacking the rim. He is an elite athlete if he is anything, and he’s different than all of our other wings. He really, really is different. I think his catch-shot game is coming around. I feel like (president of basketball operations) Bryan Colangelo did a really good job of selecting him.”