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Tyrus Thomas
With a $40 million contract in hand, it's clear no one in Charlotte doubts Tyrus Thomas' potential.
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Bobcats hope Brown can tap into Thomas' star potential

By Shaun Powell, for NBA.com
Posted Oct 20 2010 2:50PM

Is Larry Brown attracted to off-centered, unpredictable and moody players, or is it the other way around?

They just can't get enough of each other. Throughout his hop-scotching career, Brown developed a kinship of sorts with the kind of players who'd make most coaches run the other way. Most famously, Brown had Allen Iverson in Philly and Rasheed Wallace in Detroit and found a way to make those complicated relationships work. Maybe it's just a rare skill Brown owns that allows him to connect with difficult players, which is probably why the Bobcats gave $40 million and five years to Tyrus Thomas, next up on the nutty assembly line.

Michael Jordan doesn't spend money easily. And some might wisecrack (with a bit of truthfulness) that Jordan doesn't spend money at all, at least his own. But when the Bobcats owner peeled off a wad last summer for Thomas, you'd like to think he gave it a good, long thought, the way you'd do with big purchases, such as houses and cars.

Actually, even that's a stretch. The decision to extend the contract of Thomas was done rather simply and relatively quickly because the Bobcats believe they have something special with Thomas and Brown. They believe Thomas can eventually grow into a solid, long-term answer in the post, if not a borderline All-Star, in due time. And he won't self-destruct in the process, mainly because of Brown. No doubt, they'd probably think twice if Brown weren't around, if the Bobcats were coached by someone with less, um, experience in these matters.

Thomas is the kind of player who can make a coach jump up and down, out of sheer frustration or joy. Thomas is emotional and doesn't always follow orders. He's still stuck in a delayed maturation process, which doesn't make him any different from a number of players coached by Brown.

Brown once called Thomas "a little crazy", but don't take that the wrong way; he meant that affectionately. That's because Thomas' act isn't the type that will wreck teams or get him arrested for doing something silly off the court. It's an act that tests coaches and others in authority, and if you doubt that, speak to his former bosses in Chicago.

Bobcats Tie Up Tyrus
They gave up good money, hoping Thomas will do for them what previous big men didn't. Read more ...
Brown Stays Down South
The flirtation was brief, not blissful, and in the end, Larry Brown spurned Philly for Charlotte. Read more ...
Felton Frees Up Spot
The 'Cats let Felton, their starting point guard and arguably No. 3 talent, leave for the Knicks. Read more ...

The Bulls essentially gave Thomas away because they didn't share the same kind of faith in him as the Bobcats do. It's a general rule of thumb in the NBA that, if you think a player is uncoachable before you give him money, just wait until you do make him rich. Basically you empower him and hand him a mallet that he might bring down on the coach's head. The Bulls were intrigued by Thomas' athleticism but irked by his personality. He rubbed some in the organization the wrong way. The coaching staff constantly clashed with his ego and his stubborn habits. They suspended him one game for complaining about playing time. He even ticked off the NBA when he mentioned he was only in the dunk contest for the money (drawing a $10,000 fine).

When it was clear that Thomas was somewhat of a carbon copy of Joakim Noah and less trouble than rookie Taj Gibson, the Bulls had no use for him. They weren't going to pick up his option, and traded him for Ronald Murray, Acie Law and a future first-round pick. It's rare when a team gives up on a 24-year-old, high-jumping 7-footer, but the Bulls had had enough.

The Bobcats don't have the luxury of turning down big men with promise; have you seen their post-players lately? So they grabbed Thomas just before the trade deadline and haven't regretted it since.

Thomas averaged 10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in spot duty with the Bobcats in the 25 most important games of his basketball life. In the postseason, he went for 21 points and nine rebounds in Game Four against the Magic. He also showed solid defensive skills throughout his initial time in Charlotte, and that sneak peek was all the Bobcats needed to be sold on his future. General manager Rod Higgins said signing Thomas was "an offseason priority."

The Bobcats gave Thomas the money mainly on potential, which is evident from a physical standpoint. He's strong and athletic. Thomas is quick around the rim, has good anticipation skills on defense and is a fierce finisher. His weakness mainly lies on offense; his shooting range doesn't stretch beyond 15 feet and he doesn't dribble well enough to create his own shot. But he's young and eager and sometimes, even angry.

The question is, now that he's armed with the contract, does he still have the motivation to turn his career around? Can he curtail his whining about foul calls and slights, both the perceived and real?

It's all up to Thomas. And Brown.

 
THIRSTING FOR THIRD WHEEL
Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace combined for roughly 45 percent of the offense last season, and only the Pistons and Nets averaged fewer points. Where's the help?

STAND TOUGH AT HOME
Only seven teams in the entire league had better home records than the Bobcats. That's the key for any team reaching for respectability, which starts at home.

THE "D" GETS AN "A"
The Bobcats were No. 1 last year because their leading scorers (Jackson, Wallace) also play hard on the other end. Thomas will throw it back in yo face, too.


Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

AT A GLANCE

LAST YEAR: 44-38, 4th in Southeast

FINISH: Lost in first round of playoffs

2009-10 Regular Season Standings

2009-10 TEAM LEADERS

Stephen Jackson

21.1 PPG

Gerald Wallace

10.0 RPG

Raymond Felton

5.6 APG

2009-10 STATISTICS

  OFFENSE DEFENSE
PPG 95.3 93.8
RPG 40.8 39.6
APG 20.2 20.3
FG % 0.453 0.448
3PT % 0.346 0.338
FT % 0.751 0.743
  Complete 2009-10 Stats 
STARTING FIVE

STEPHEN JACKSON, GUARD

20.6 PPG | 5.0 RPG | 3.7 APG

Fiery and aggressive, Jackson is a force for the Bobcats. But you know his history. When does the honeymoon end?

D.J. AUGUSTIN, GUARD

6.4 PPG | 2.4 APG | 1.2 RPG

With Ray Felton gone, the job is his. Good luck playing for Larry Brown, who can be tough on point guards.

GERALD WALLACE, FORWARD

18.2 PPG | 10.0 RPG | 1.02 BPG

The league's best shot-blocker and rebounder, pound for pound, Wallace is an underrated star and team leader.

BORIS DIAW, FORWARD

11.3 PPG | 5.2 RPG | 4.0 APG

Has all-around skills that help the Bobcats, but alas is playing above his ideal weight.

NAZR MOHAMMED, CENTER

7.9 PPG | 5.2 RPG | 0.74 BPG

Gangly and sometimes clumsy center will surprise every now and then with defense and touch.

RESERVES
NAMEHTWTPOSCOMMENT
Tyrus Thomas6-10225FWill get starter's minutes because of his quickness and defense. Just needs a jumper.
Derrick Brown6-7225FHustle and grit will help him get minutes and put him on Larry Brown’s good side.
Gerald Henderson6-5215GLearned plenty as a rookie and now will see extended minutes at backup point.
 Complete Roster 
OFFSEASON MOVES

ADDED: Shaun Livingston, Tyrus Thomas, Kwame Brown, Eduardo Najera, Matt Carroll

LOST:  Theo Ratliff, Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Alexis Ajinca, Erick Dampier

MAN ON THE SPOT

MICHAEL JORDAN, OWNER

Michael Jordan got the Bobcats for a song, paying well under market price. And last season the Bobcats finally made the playoffs and reawakened the basketball pulse in the city. But now, what does he do for an encore? Jordan said it isn't worth paying the luxury tax unless your team is championship-ready, and that makes sense. But he put his name on the line by committing to Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas, high-maintenance guys who will make or break this team. We'll see if this formula helps the Bobcats and Jordan's rep.

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