Etan Thomas: Excited to Be Home With Thunder

'I THINK THIS IS GOING TO BE AN EXCITING YEAR'

Etan Thomas was at a family barbeque at his mother’s house in Tulsa when he got a phone call from his agent, Arn Tellem.

Good news, Tellem said. You’ve been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And with that call Monday, Thomas’ homecoming had begun.

By the time he returned back to suburban Washington, D.C., the following day, Thomas’ voice mail was completely full.

“All my friends, all my family, everybody was excited,” he said. “I’m coming back to Oklahoma … I’ll be playing in my home state. It’s great.”

Accompanied by his wife, Nichole, Thomas was in town on Thursday to complete his physical, check out the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Training Center and meet some front office personnel.

The Thunder acquired Thomas from the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with two 2010 second-round draft picks, in exchange for guards Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins.

Thomas, who has played only for the Washington Wizards in his six NBA seasons, already knows forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, both of whom grew up outside Washington, D.C., from playing pickup basketball during the off-season. Thomas said both Durant and Green reached out to him the day he was traded.

With career averages of 6.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks, Thomas’ physical attributes, rugged play and experience is expected to help the Thunder frontcourt.

“I play hard, I play with a lot of emotion,” Thomas said. “I’m physical, aggressive, being a Big East (Syracuse) player.”

But Thomas’ talents extend beyond the basketball court.

The 6-foot-10, 260-pound center has strong political views – he once spoke at an anti-war rally in D.C. – and is an avid supporter of President Barack Obama and Democratic National Committee, for which he spoke at two stops during the campaign’s “Register For Change” bus tour.

Thomas said he became interested in current events and politics as a student at Carver Middle School in Tulsa, where he served on the speech and debate team. He started performing other people’s speeches before writing his own and it branched from there, as Thomas delved into dramatic interpretations and poetry.

Poetry, Thomas said, was an extension of his speech writing, and he counts Shakespeare as well as contemporary poets such as Last Poets, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Saul Williams and Black Ice among his favorites.

Thomas has had his work published in multiple mediums, with his acclaimed book of poems, “More Than An Athlete,” at the forefront. He’s also a contributing writer for huffingtonpost.com and slamonline.com and currently has a book project called "Voices of the Future," which encourages people to write about political and everyday topics.

“Each chapter is going to be a political topic,” Thomas said. “I’m going to start a chapter off with a poem and then all their writings will come after it. So they’ll submit different writings. It’s really just encouraging young people to write.”

One speech that Thomas recalled on Thursday dated back to high school. It was about breaking down stereotypes, and it took him all the way to a tournament at Harvard University.

“It was like one of those times where something hits you and you can’t stop writing,” Thomas said. “It was one of those types of experiences that I was writing about – how I’m perceived, how you don’t see the interior, you just see the exterior, and stereotypes and things like that. And I went into detail with that. This was in high school. I was like 16, and it just went from there.”

It was through his high school speech and debate team that Thomas became familiar with Oklahoma City, where he often traveled for competitions as well as AAU tournaments.

Even during breaks at Syracuse University, Thomas, who proudly made reference to his back-to-back state championship basketball team at Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, would make trips to Norman to visit high school friends who attended the University of Oklahoma.

As a kid, Thomas never thought he’d see the day that Oklahoma would have a professional basketball team.

Now that the Thunder is here, he couldn’t be happier. And having the chance to play against his new teammates last season has him optimistic about the organization’s future.

“They play hard,” Thomas said. “It’s a young team, an exciting team. Like I said, I already know Kevin and Jeff and I know their work ethic and everybody’s just going to branch off from them and see how they work and see how they’re professionals to the game. I think this is going to be an exciting year.”

Contact Chris Silva