DETROIT — If you assumed competitiveness would take a backseat to compassion for rookies Ausar and Amen Thompson as Ausar was going through an attention-garnering losing streak with the Detroit Pistons, well, you’d be wrong.
After all, the twins talk every day — multiple times, both said. And they haven’t seen each other since NBA Summer League in July, following a lifetime of hardly going more than a day without sharing the same space.
“Maybe two days at the most,” Ausar told Yahoo Sports.
When the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets match up Monday in Houston, it’ll be the first meeting between the fourth and fifth picks in the recent draft, not including the occasionally bloody backyard battles the two engaged in for years.
The event will be commemorated by both teams since they’ll play again on Jan. 12 in Detroit, by giving away interlocking bobbleheads of both in their respective uniforms — Twin Night, it’s called.
There have been notable twins in the NBA’s past and present. Horace and Harvey Grant. Robin and Brook Lopez play together on the Milwaukee Bucks. Marcus and Markieff Morris were highly drafted and played together.
But no set of twins was selected as high as top 10, let alone top five like the Thompsons, who took the unconventional route, going to Overtime Elite in Atlanta for two years and forgoing a senior year in high school and a freshman year in college.
Luckily for Ausar, the Pistons’ record losing streak was broken against the Toronto Raptors. Otherwise, Amen would be even more relentless with the ribbing.
“Talking [stuff]. Like, ‘Damn, are y’all gonna get a win?’ No mercy,” Ausar said. “Because they started off 0-3 and we were 2-1. I was like, ‘Damn, y’all can’t get a win?’ And it’s bitten me in the butt.”
Turnabout is fair play, one supposes, but that’s the basis of their relationship, their brotherhood.
Amen is older, but Ausar calls himself the “big brother.” Ausar is listed as six pounds heavier, with both being 6-foot-7. As identical twins, there are the obvious similarities: they both choose their words carefully, never saying much more than required but allowing for slight moments of personality seeping out.
There’s the strong eye contact but the straightforward facial expressions can break into a smile easily, evidenced by being around both on draft night in New York City.
Ausar proudly boasted he’s the biggest of all the Thompson siblings, including their older brother Troy Thompson Jr., who played college ball at Prairie View from 2016-18. Amen, Ausar said, is more competitive and those one-on-one matchups stuck with him longer in the aftermath.
“I was competitive with a calm mindset. He was competitive to the point where he’d want to fight you. He was more aggressive,” Ausar said. “I think it prepared us for anything.”
Amen agreed … kinda.
“It might sit with me for like 30 minutes, but then, you know that’s my brother,” Amen said. “I don’t hold grudges, he doesn’t either. But when we get back on the court, it goes back to that [competitiveness].
“When we play together, we’re in sync, I know what he’s gonna do. When we play against each other, it’s super competitive, too. We used to have fights and stuff, but we’ve grown out of that, obviously.”
The car rides back from AAU games before they reached their teen years started an early maturity and work ethic. Mom would film the games and their father and brother would be critiquing on the sometimes two-hour ride.
“It was just what I knew back then,” Amen said. “I really just took it as a learning experience. It was nothing to me, I just wanted to get better and felt that was a way I could get better.”
Almost true to form, in the immediate aftermath of the Pistons’ win over Toronto on Saturday night, there was Ausar sitting at his locker, jersey still on. Watching a replay of the game he just played in.
“I’ve probably watched every game I’ve played in since sixth grade,” Ausar said. “Just trying to get better, see what I could’ve done differently. Just always trying to learn, be the best I can be. Hopefully it leads to something great.”
In the early days of the season, Ausar drew rave reviews from veterans across the league. His defensive versatility and athleticism reminds more than a few of Andre Iguodala. Amen had his Summer League cut short with a foot injury, and in the early weeks of the season, he suffered an ankle sprain that had him miss considerable time before making it back shortly before Christmas.
Still, the optimism on both remains for good reason.
“It doesn’t feel like a rookie class. I think it’s an incredible [draft] class,” Golden State Warriors veteran Draymond Green said early in the season. “They don’t look like rookies. The Thompson twins, I feel a way about the Thompson twins and [Victor Wembanyama] because those guys are going to make it much harder for me to continue to make All-Defensive Teams.”
During Amen’s rehab period, he had plenty of time to watch Ausar. He and Troy Jr. would find themselves talking at the TV during those games, and afterward the conversations illustrated how much their dynamic hasn’t changed.
“Relationship is the exact same,” Amen said. “I can still make jokes that nobody would understand but him. Conversations are really just basically the same. It can be about anything.”
But even beyond the competitiveness and the obvious bond, they have other differences.
“Personality wise, he’s probably a little more to himself,” Amen said. “We’re different, we’re definitely different. If you’re around us, he’ll probably like mid-conversation sneak away (laughs). That’s a big difference, you won’t even notice that. He just disappeared.”
Surprise, surprise, Ausar doesn’t see it that way.
“I totally disagree with that,” Ausar said. “He has the right to his opinion. He gonna say he’s better looking, that’s his go-to. I’m better looking. He’s gonna say he’s funnier. I’m funnier. We did a poll.
“He gets mad easier. I’m more chill, laid back.”
Before the game, Amen said he’ll seek out Ausar for an on-court conversation — and he’s not sure how little big brother will react.
“I’ll try to talk to him. He’ll try not to talk back,” Amen said.
Ausar is more focused on the possibility of having to defend his brother, and taking in the moment.
“I will guard him. Do I want to guard him? Nah. I’d want to guard him just for the picture,” Ausar said. “But if they put me on him, I gotta lock him up.”