After learning about Vlad's defection, my initial reaction to the Tim Thomas signing was relief. The Clippers get arguably one of the best remaining mid-cap guys on the market - a forward who, like Vlad, can spread the floor and help Elton ward off double-teams. Thomas is only 29, has never rebounded a hell of a lot, but had four very productive seasons in Milwaukee.
Who was his point guard those four season with the Bucks?
One could argue that Vlad and TT are really similar players and, sure enough, John R. culled the depths of Basketball Reference to determine that, in fact, Vlad and TT are uniquely similar .
One issue: Clipperblog is a little pissy that it never got to see Vlad in both a Clipper jersey and cornrows. We feel cheated.
Of course, Cassell will remain with the Clips for only two additional seasons and Thomas has a history of the door hitting his ass on the way out - in New York and Chicago, in particular.
Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith recently answered some mail regarding a Bulls fan's seller's remorse over Skil-ing TT, only to watch him drill rainbow after rainbow to sink the Lakers, then the Clippers:
First, did Thomas really have that horrible of a work ethic that the Bulls had to send him home while still paying him the highest salary on the team? Second, if the Bulls had received the production out of Thomas that he is currently providing to the Suns, could the Bulls have gone from an overachieving team that could pull an upset or two in the playoffs to a talented group that would have been a legitimate threat to the Pistons this season (especially in light of Tyson Chandler's latest injury)? --Frank Talaga, Naperville, Ill.
I get asked this a lot and this is one of those, "You had to be there" things. Look, the Bulls never wanted Thomas. They wanted the draft picks, and they could be great. He just came to fill out the NBA mathematics of the deal. They thought they'd take a look, but he was hurt and indifferent. It's the story of his career and why he was traded several times. It's not like he was in great demand.
The NBA is more of a team sport than almost every team sport. Screens, boxing out, helping on defense, passing, those so-called little things. You have to rely on your teammates. It's why you see so many dysfunctional teams with talent. Match the talent of teams out of the playoffs, like the 76ers, even Boston, Orlando, Minnesota, Houston, with the Bulls. It's certainly not less.
The Bulls established a standard of play. They practice hard and you have seen the effects on Miami. They work on offense and defense and help one another. Thomas doesn't play that way and never has. He has more talent than anyone on the Bulls, a big man who can shoot from outside and go to the basket. If he had the ethic of Chris Duhon, he'd be LeBron James. But he usually asked out of practice or ran lazily. He told players they didn't have to work hard after big games. He told the team he was a star and should be treated like one. You don't need that with a young team, and what would have gone on during the season between he and Scott Skiles? Did the Heat need Gary Payton yelling at Dwyane Wade? You're always better off with less talent and more character.
Thomas is a great rental for the Suns. They rarely practice because of the way they play, don't push for defense and were desperate for size with injuries. He was an ideal fit for them. He would have been a disaster for the Bulls. They don't want to get in a dispute bringing it up again and I don't blame them. But they did the right thing.
There's a lot to take away from Smith's assessment. You've got the "[i]f he had the ethic of Chris Duhon, he'd be LeBron James." Or you can languish in Smith's implications that Thomas is an incorrigible douchebag incapable of sharing the sandbox.
The difference now is that Thomas has accepted the fact that he's a mid-cap veteran - a guy who'll come off the bench and do his thing. The role is pre-defined, a condition that was never the case in either Chicago or New York. He'll have Sam keeping his head straight and, at 32, will have to perform in the last year of that contract to earn appreciable dollars.
You saw what he did against the Clips in the conference semifinals. In seven games, he hit 17 three-pointers at a 38% clip, grabbed over six rebounds a game and actually defended EB in the post at crucial moments in the latter half of the series. Against the Lakers, he was outright lethal. Overall in twenty postseason games for Phoenix, Thomas hit 48 3PM (.444) and his overall FG% for the playoffs was 49%.
If he's a bust, well, it'll cost the Clips their mid-cap slot, but not one shekel against the overall number - hardly an incidental detail. So Clipperblog is on board...until it isn't.