After agreeing to terms with free agent center Al Jefferson, the Charlotte Bobcats will waive Tyrus Thomas through the league’s amnesty provision. Thomas spent three and a half seasons in Charlotte and will receive all of the $18 million remaining on his contract through 2015.
In 2010 the Bobcats sent expiring contracts and a protected first round pick to the Chicago Bulls for a 23-year-old Thomas. It was addition by subtraction for the Bulls; Thomas was a headache and didn’t perform to his draft hype.
The Bobcats believed a change of scenery would benefit Thomas. Initially, they were right. Thomas helped clinch the Bobcats’ first and only playoff berth. He was rewarded with a five-year, $40 million extension that offseason.
The Bobcats had visions of Thomas being an affordable asset. More importantly he had a big supporter in Larry Brown, who was believed to be instrumental in the acquisition and re-signing of Thomas.
Thomas remained productive at the start of his contract. His flashes of brilliance were sporadic, but encouraging. He showcased elite athleticism, explosiveness, and an uncanny defensive presence. Statistically, Thomas was one of the team’s top players in 2011 and had little trouble stuffing a box score. Despite battling injuries and inconsistent minutes, things could’ve been much worse.
Following Brown’s departure in 2011, they did.
Thomas never clicked with Paul Silas or Mike Dunlap. Few players did, but Thomas’ troubles stood out the most. Little confidence was placed in Thomas to perform in a key role. Injuries rolled over from the preceding seasons and he lost minutes to Byron Mullens and Jeff Adrien, players the Bobcats plucked from the scrap heap.
When Thomas got meaningful minutes, he caught himself doing too much to make up for lost time. When inactive or pulled from games, he sat on the bench with other disinterested teammates. The writing was on the wall.
It wasn’t a matter of if Thomas would remain a Bobcat, but how much longer.
The Bobcats reportedly shopped Thomas to any general manager with a pulse. Any trade likely would have required the Bobcats to take on more money for a worse problem. It wasn’t worth it. They were better off with him being a non-factor.
Thomas’ contract was a waste of time. The Bobcats could lose a top draft pick in one of the next three seasons to the Bulls as a result of his acquisition.
Thomas didn’t help, nor did he contribute to the losing culture in Charlotte the past two seasons. He came into 2013 in much better shape than previous years. Little was heard of him having a declining work ethic or not wanting to help the team win. He said all the right things and worked hard to return from injuries.
There just wasn’t any room left for that in Charlotte.
He will get another chance. Teams that are under the cap will be able to bid on the remaining money of his contract. If Thomas goes unclaimed, he’ll be free to sign what would likely be a deal for the league’s veteran minimum.
Thomas turns 27 next month. He will be one year older than Andray Blatche, when he was waived by the Washington Wizards last offseason. Blatche was picked up by the Brooklyn Nets and had his best season as a pro in 2013. Former Bobcats Boris Diaw even remembered how to play basketball again after landing in San Antonio.
Thomas won’t have the pressure of living up to his draft position or an enormous contract for his next team. He’ll be free to block shots, make highlight reel plays and be a defensive force. For little money, Thomas could be an easy overachiever. He needs a quality organization and staff that can re-energize him as Larry Brown did in 2010.
Thomas still has the time and ability to pave a respectable career, just not in Charlotte.