As the NBA off-season continues to drag along, the SB Nation network of basketball blogs is doing a weekly post on a a wide variety of topics to keep the ball rolling. Today's installment is the biggest disappointment of the franchise.
Oh man, Tyrus.
I'd say that phrase with a different connotation several times every game. Sometimes with delight with his unbelievable combination of size and athleticism, but other times with befuddlement after a missed assignment or poor shot selection.
This could be an extremely long post given the words I've spent on the guy, and I've actually mentioned Tyrus twice already in these themed posts, tying him in with Viktor Khryapa's cult status, and remarking on the missed opportunity that was his role in the Eddy Curry trade. And it's definitively now a missed opportunity: getting the #2 overall pick in the draft, and trading down for someone that didn't even get a second contract with the team. And in Tyrus's case such a designation wasn't completely about Bulls cheapness. It just wasn't working out here, and it'd be tough to commit those years/money to still try and figure it out when the team was meant to be focused on building around Derrick Rose.
But the 'wasn't working out' was always a point of consternation with me, as I still think the Org. could've done more to allow him to succeed, specifically on the court. There was numerous off-court incidents in those first couple of seasons, starting with the 'free money' comment when he was invited to the Dunk Contest to what I perceived as a consistent attack from Sam Smith because he didn't call old people 'sir' enough. Then the whole debacles of the Jim Boylan and Vinny Del Negro eras that really weren't any situation for someone who perhaps needed a different kind of attention.
But what got me more than that was that the Bulls always seemed to look at what Tyrus couldn't do instead of what they had. When the guy played, even through all the nonsense we'd see and read about, he produced. He could rebound, block shots, and was aggressive with the ball. It was a dynamic element that the Skiles Bulls didn't really have, and I don't think they invested enough into figuring it out given how much was at stake with his draft selection. He'd be constantly benched (at one point for Aaron Gray), they'd look to draft his replacements, and while I get that maybe none of it would've have mattered, I still place some fault on the Bulls for not doing more.
But what's even worse is that once Tyrus was 'freed' from Chicago and sent to Charlotte, things not only didn't change but got worse. Just recently, Bobcats blog Rufus on Fire lamented a really tough season for Thomas, coming off a knee injury that ended his previous year:
Post-lockout, Tyrus Thomas emerged. He returned underweight for his position, leading to tweener conflicts. He was no longer strong enough to defend the stronger power forwards yet not quick enough or with the basketball IQ to guard small forwards. The experiment to play Thomas at small forward was a failure and injuries this time to his left ankle kept him sidelined for weeks at the beginning of the year. And then he and Paul Silas had a physical confrontation after Thomas' antics wore thin on the old school former veteran NBA big man.
What still disappoints me, even now that he's the Bobcats problem, is not that this showed the "same old Tyrus". It's that he got completely worse than what he was as a Bull. Through all of Tyrus Thomas's issues, his statistical performance was indeed getting better as he aged, topping out over 18 before plummeting all the way to 9.0 (!) last season.
And that's when the other headaches that come with trying to fit Tyrus Thomas into your team no longer seems worth it. I'm really pulling for him to recover, and I'm not as ambitious to thin he'll ever to show people wrong that he's always been an unappreciated player. But he can at least get back to the point where I can still blame coaches as to why things haven't worked out.
I'll end this with one of my favorite clips of the BaB era, a game I attended, during Tyrus Thomas first exposure to the playoffs. Again, it was a sign that while the rest of the Bulls at that time may have had a ceiling, this kid was going to help them burst through it.