NBA Rumor: Hasheem Thabeet Free Agency

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Former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet has re-entered unrestricted free agency after a teammate in The Basketball Tournament tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of the month. Thabeet, 33, was set to compete with the “Playing for Jimmy V” team during the annual tournament, but event rules mandate that any team who receives a positive test be disqualified from competing in the bracket any further. Thabeet tested negative for the coronavirus, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Hasheem Thabeet works out for Knicks

Former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet has been participating in informal scrimmages with some of the Knicks in New York City this week and is expected to be with the club for at least the next few days, per SNY sources. New York currently has 19 players under contract – one fewer than the maximum of 20 for training camp. So they have room to add Thabeet, a 7-foot-3 center, to their training camp roster if they choose.

On Saturday in Maryland, three NBA teams attended a workout with a handful of prospects in their early 20s who recently completed standout college careers and are jockeying for an opportunity in the league. Towering among the group that day was a 32-year-old who understands some things now about being a professional that he wishes he had known when he was their age. Hasheem Thabeet cannot change his past, but the 7-foot-3 former Grizzlies center is bullish about his future in the NBA. “There’s so many things I can believe I can do,” Thabeet told The Commercial Appeal in a phone interview this week.

Thabeet posted a respectable 2.1 plus/minus rating in 66 games with a 60-win Thunder team during the 2012-13 season. It’s a number that he points to with pride as the proof of the impact he still could have on an NBA roster if given the steady opportunities that eluded him for most of his five seasons in the league. “It’s just that I was very limited with my time spent on the court,” he said. “I need that chance, and I need to get back out there. That’s how I feel.”

And the now is what is perhaps most interesting for Thabeet. He says he’s in the best shape of his life. He’s working out three times a day, from skills work on the court to lifting in the weight room to running and plyometrics. He’s running seven-minute miles. He’s never been injury-prone. His body is more cut up now than it was when he was in college. He can jump and reach the top of the backboard. He’s extended his range to the 3-point line; his agent, Jerry Dianis, sent me a video where he knocked down four out of five 3-pointers, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to turn into Dirk Nowitzki but is certainly much more than you’d expect from Hasheem Thabeet. He’s recently worked out for three Eastern Conference contenders — the Philadelphia 76ers, the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks — and has more workouts coming up. One NBA executive said he was “pleasantly surprised about Hasheem’s attitude and outlook.”

The pitch Thabeet’s team is making to NBA teams: Those types of players — the player Thabeet is attempting to become a decade after he was drafted so high — get paid a lot of money. But teams in need of a backup big man who can protect the rim will be able to get Thabeet at a hugely discounted price. “Mentally, spiritually, I’m all feeling really well,” Thabeet said. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs. You don’t stop living just because a certain situation doesn’t go your way. The key was just to keep improving my understanding of the game. For as many years as I haven’t been playing at a very high level … it didn’t stop me from learning the game and studying the game. This is something I really love doing. I could go back home [to Tanzania] and live good. But I still have a desire and love for the game.”

Thabeet knows people will say whatever they want to say about him: That he’s a bust, that he’ll never make it in the NBA, that he’s too old. But plenty of the guys Thabeet was drafted in front of still play in the NBA, and Thabeet doesn’t have the mileage on his body that those players do, so he dismisses the age thing out of hand. He says he’s in the best shape of his life, and he says he is wiser than ever before. “I’m ready to go,” Thabeet said. “No matter what’s being said about me or what’s passed behind me, I’ve grown from it. All the stereotypes about me — I’m not the same person I was a few years ago. I’m ready for whatever. The big key is that I’m a team player. I’m ready to be on a team. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I hope it happens. I have the will. I have the power. Now I just have to have the opportunity.”

The Bucks are hosting a free agent mini-camp on Tuesday and Wednesday this week as they look to fill out their training camp roster and identify candidates to play for their G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, according to Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The mini-camp, which will give the club a chance to evaluate possible camp invitees, includes a handful of notable names among its 16 participants. Former lottery picks Trey Burke and Hasheem Thabeet are among the first-rounders who will be in attendance at the mini-camp, as Velazquez details. MarShon Brooks, Toney Douglas, Archie Goodwin, R.J. Hunter, John Jenkins, Perry Jones, and James Young are also set to get a look from the Bucks.

“He’s only worked out for three teams – the Knicks, Wizards and Lakers – so teams still don’t know the work he’s put in or what he’s done. They still think he’s the old Hasheem, when he really isn’t. I think people will see that he is a different player when he gets with an NBA team and he gets in games and he plays well. That’s when, I think, people will start investigating and wondering what he did over the summer to improve. I mentioned his name to a couple other teams [outside of the three that worked him out], people I know and trust in the league. I won’t mention those names, but they hadn’t seen him and so the only memory they had of him is the old Hasheem.

Among all D-League players, he ranked third in total blocks (117), fourth in Defensive Rating (101.3) and fifth in block percentage (8.7 percent). However, despite producing, Thabeet didn’t get called up by an NBA team. “I was kind of shocked I didn’t get called up, but it was a situation that I couldn’t control,” Thabeet told Basketball Insiders. “What I could control was being consistent, continuing to work hard and enjoying myself while I was there. It was great to get an opportunity to compete. I have fun being out on the court and letting my presence be felt, trying to dominate on the defensive end. I wanted to show that I can defend at any cost. With the systems now, I won’t be out there trying to be the best scorer or anything; there are other players whose job it is to do that. I’m finding ways to impact the game.”
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September 21, 2021 | 1:36 pm EDT Update

Sixers not close to trading Ben Simmons

Complicating matters with that caveat of right now, of course, is the reality that the Sixers also do not appear close to a trade they are willing to go through with that gives Simmons his desired fresh start. More than two months after posting one of my Tuesday newsletter extravaganzas on Substack for the first time on July 13 — also a breakdown, on that occasion, of the latest on the Simmons front — Philadelphia looks no closer to a trade to bring an end to this stalemate.
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Weeks of Philadelphia’s Simmons talks with various teams haven’t brought the Sixers to the brink of a deal, largely because Morey is the one faced with trying to get commensurate value for his All-Star and still asking for so much in return in his determination to recoup a trade package that, as one source put it, keeps Philadelphia in title contention. History, however, says that Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations shouldn’t count on getting a glittering package back when a deal finally materializes — his own history.
I reported Monday that the Sixers don’t expect Simmons to show and are resigned to try to keep working behind the scenes to try to convince him to reconsider that stance. After I published that, another source close to the situation told me: “Right now, I don’t see a scenario where Ben is back in Philly.” The source meant it with permanence. As in: Simmons’ career with the Sixers, to the source, is over.
I was told very clearly that the Sixers do not liken these circumstances to Al Horford’s last season in Oklahoma City or John Wall’s in Houston. As the start of training camp draws near, Philadelphia has shown zero interest to date in striking the sort of mutual agreement that Wall and the Rockets just hatched to shelve the former All-Star point guard.
Storyline: Ben Simmons Trade?
The Sixers have not lowered the bar on what they’re seeking in a Simmons trade — yet. Toronto, Minnesota, Cleveland, San Antonio and Sacramento — all of them, league sources say, have engaged with Philadelphia in Simmons trade talks. They’re also all bubble playoff teams at best based in markets not known for attracting free agents and surely love the idea of acquiring Simmons when the 25-year-old is locked into three guaranteed seasons on his contract after this one.
Yet league sources maintain, as noted above, that the Sixers are actively trying to convince Simmons to rejoin the team even though he has made it clear to management that he doesn’t want to spend another second as a Sixer. I was told very clearly that the Sixers do not liken these circumstances to Al Horford’s last season in Oklahoma City or John Wall’s in Houston. As the start of training camp draws near, Philadelphia has shown zero interest to date in striking the sort of mutual agreement that Wall and the Rockets just hatched to shelve the former All-Star point guard.