On February 18th, 2010, the Charlotte Bobcats agreed to package Ronald "Flip" Murray, Acie Law, and a future protected first round pick to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Tyrus Thomas, a former number four overall pick who had never managed to average more than 10.8 ppg and 6.5 rebounds in his 3 1/2 years in the windy city, but still displayed a great deal of potential in short spurts.
The Bobcat's need for another body in the middle for the team's first ever playoff run at the time was well documented. I myself even put together a list of potential power forwards I would have liked to see the team go after four days earlier that week which included the rumored trade of Tyrus that actually happened. Everyone knows what happened next.........
The Bobcats made the playoffs for the first, and only time in history, with Tyrus being a huge part of the team's success throughout the second half of the season, coming close to reaching his career highs with 10.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 1.5 bpg despite playing roughly 6 minutes less than the year that he set his high point and rebound marks during the 2008 campaign with the Bulls.
Once we reached the playoffs, Tyrus' minutes began to fade a little, but he was one of the more impressive Bobcats during the drubbing Orlando delivered to us, averaging close to 9 points and 6 rebounds on 63% shooting. It made absolutely no sense to let him walk away at that point. Raymond Felton this year was an unrestricted free agent while Thomas was a restricted. Felton was decimated in the playoffs by Jameer Nelson while Tyrus was looked at as one of the few bright spots. New Jersey was breathing down our necks with a front loaded offer that would be hard to match.The price for each would both start at around $7 million. The choice was made.
The all of the sudden "cancerous" Raymond Felton took his talents to New York while Thomas remained a Bobcat. Fresh off of signing a new big money contract and being a major part of the team's first playoff appearance, Thomas was going to be counted on to lead the new underdogs everyone wanted (but couldn't) root for in the east. Again, we're all fans, so I don't need to go into full detail of what happened next, but I'll provide a brief synopsis.........
Not only Felton walked, but Tyson Chandler, another huge part of our interior defense with Thomas, was dealt away for Erick Dampier, Matt Carrol, and Eduardo Najera in a move that signaled the team was ready to change directions right after their first trip to the big tournament. Larry Brown lost faith in the team, the team lost faith in Larry Brown, and in the end, due to injury and a constant shuffling of team direction, Thomas managed to play in only half of the games that year, still putting up over 10 points and close to 6 rebounds in only 21 minutes of playing time. Impressive numbers, indeed.
But I also remember at that point one particular instance where I seriously began questioning signing Tyrus to his contract. I can't remember, but I'm sure someone else can, what exact game it was, but something happened that made me feel embarrassed to have Tyrus in Charlotte. There was a wild sequence of events where Tyrus lost the ball on one position, tried to force it on the next, and ended up with a crazy injury the next play (I really hope someone remembers this game, I'm thinking it was against Indy, lol). Adding insult to injury, Thomas then began hopping around (I'm sure in pain) and looking more like an oversized baby throwing a temper tantrum than an NBA player with a legitimate injury. Add on top of that Tyrus was just coming back from an injury, and you can see why I started to get worried.
Nevertheless though, Tyrus did put up pretty decent numbers that year, so everyone was coming into this season
expecting hoping a more mature player paired with a more player friendly coach like Paul Silas would finally turn him into the monster within. The lockout at that point hit though, and one day something happens downtown that worried me even more. On a trip to the local courthouse so get an issue with my car resolved, I ran across Tyrus in line at the clerk's office. I didn't know it was him at first as I was still waiting in line and he was right in front of me, blocking his face from view. The guy behind me tapped me on my shoulder and whispered,
"Hey, do you watch the Bobcats?"
I replied, "yeah, I watch them all the time".
He then points to a guy standing in front of me wearing a long black tee and saggy black pants, and says, "isn't that the guy from Chicago?"
I thought he was saying there was a Chicago Bulls player so I then began to think to myself, "who could this guy be? Taj Gibson? Nah, he's not that skinny. How is anyone that skinny even in the NBA? This is just a crazy fan who thinks all tall people are basketball players." The guy then taps me on my shoulder again and says,
"ya know, the one from Chicago?"
At that point I said "Tyrus Thomas?", which caused Tyrus to turn around, say "what's up", chit chat with me for a few seconds about how bs the court systems were, and then proceeded up to the window to speak with the clerk, leaving me not only in shock that I had just met one of the best players on my favorite team, but also how skinny NBA players were. After Tyrus had spoke to the clerk, he walked off for a few minutes, came back to the clerk's window, and then was visibly upset (child like, hands on hips, huffing and puffing, smacking of the lips) when told he would have to get right back in the back of line.
"Boy, the food vendors are that way. After this next timeout, go eat some Bojangles. And bring me back a sweet tea."
Once the season started, it became apparent that not at all players were just simply that skinny up close, but that Tyrus had just been a victim of the added free time provided by the lockout, except Tyrus didn't come back fat like Shawn Kemp, but instead, came back the size of Kevin Durant.
The size difference, plus injuries on the team and playing with a historically bad squad, ended up causing Tyrus to play out of position, at the SF spot. Honestly, I can't tell you why/if that's been a big problem for his personal success as he still takes the same shots he always takes and plays in the same spots he's always played, but it definately hasn't worked from a team perspective. However, there is still something extremely off about him, other than the weight loss, that I can't quite put my finger on. This year, he's averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds on 35% shooting (pathetic for any big man) and has been the target of frequent criticism around the site. A lot of people want to use the amnesty on Tyrus and erase the 3 1/2 years left on his contract. I've been halfway in that boat as well, but not now.....here's why........
1. The team has shown that they aren't willing to take on additional salary for draft picks (as evidenced by electing not to move Boris Diaw at the deadline), so either way, we're going to eventually have to spend money somewhere. For the reasons that I advocated re-signing D.J. Augustin, I am now advocating hanging on to Tyrus Thomas at least for another year. We're going to have to eventually sign someone to hit the cap floor, and with all of our big contracts expiring next year, does it really make sense to use the amnesty on 25 year old player who has only played 1/2 year of "God-awful basketball?
2. Let's face it now, Jordan isn't going to pay anyone NOT to play. Unless we are making a move for a superstar and that cap space is absolutely necessary, what reason do we have to clear him off the books? To say that he's no longer a Bobcat? That's fine, but then what happens? In the NBA, it's a lot harder to obtain talent than to retain talent. Tyrus is locked in and no one is trading for him anytime soon, so ultimately, we need to make the BEST business decision on Tyrus. And unless an opportunity presents itself to acquire a superstar in free agency or trade Tyrus for , it's best to try to let him play out of this funk.
3. Watch the video, this was less than TWO months ago.........
"Perhaps this video provides all the documentation needed on why the Wizards were so willing to trade Andray Blatche for Tyrus"
Tyrus has been amazingly terrible this year, but so has the team altogether. Are we looking at Tyrus and his contract as a scapegoat? The other night, Tyrus had one of his best games of the year the other night against the Mavs, totaling 14 points on 5-7 shooting and 8 rebounds in 27 minutes. Under this new CBA, even those numbers aren't worth $7.5 million a year, but they are certainly worthy enough to not call the player a lost cause and get rid of his contract because of the funk he's in. I'm not saying Tyrus will recover from his suckitude, if he will ever get back to his normal weight, or if we can still be a player of the future for our squad, but it just makes no sense to use the amnesty on the kid this year. Not in my eyes.