Monday, Feb. 8, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
Let me take you back to the weeks leading up to the 2006 NBA Draft. After the draft lottery, the Bulls wound up with the second overall pick, courtesy of the Eddy Curry trade with New York, and were looking seriously at three players: Texas centerpower forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington shooting guard Brandon Roy and LSU forward Tyrus Thomas. The Bulls also had their own first-round pick, No. 16 overall, and they were hoping to walk away from the draft with an explosive inside player and a tall shooting guard with defensive skills.
Toronto held the No. 1 overall pick, and their general manager, Bryan Colangelo, was especially interested in Italian big man Andrea Bargnani, known more for his 3-point shooting touch than his back-to-the-basket skills. That meant the Bulls would have their choice of the top three options.
John Paxson really liked Roy and knew he was the most NBA-ready player after four seasons of college ball. Aldridge also was considered a safe choice after a couple of productive seasons at Texas. There were concerns about Aldridge being too thin, but he had the back-to-the-basket skills the Bulls were looking for. Thomas was the high riskhigh reward option after playing only one year at LSU. He was coming off a strong showing in the NCAA tournament, drawing comparisons to Phoenix Suns All-Star Shawn Marion. Sure, he didn't have an outside shot and his basketball I.Q. was low, but he could jump out of the gym and NBA scouts drooled over his potential to run the court and block shots.
So, you know what happened. Paxson passed on Aldridge and Roy and wound up with Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha, who was dumped at last year's trade deadline after failing to find a consistent role with the Bulls.
The purpose of the history lesson is to show you how desperately the Bulls wanted Thomas to succeed. They missed a chance to draft one of the NBA's best young shooting guards in Roy and a quality power foward in Aldridge. And, Sefolosha turned out to be a disappointment, even though he's now a starter in Oklahoma City.
So, all they have left from that '06 Draft is Thomas, and he still hasn't figured out what it means to be a professional 3 12 years into his NBA career. Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan and now Vinny Del Negro all had problems with Tyrus' immaturity. Tyrus thinks he should be a jump-shooting small forward taking 15 shots a night instead of a guy who does the dirty work inside like rebound and block shots. He doesn't bother following the game plans and routinely is in the wrong place on both ends of the floor. And, when his constant mistakes lead to a seat on the bench, he complains about unfair treatment from the coaching staff.
When you go through three different coaches, and the same problems keep coming up, maybe it's time to look in the mirror. Tyrus needs to realize he has to change his approach on the court and off. He's been hard to work with for those of us in the news media and has put his teammates in a bad situation with his pouting and selfish play. Maybe a change of scenery will help Tyrus grow up, but that's hardly a guarantee. And right now, Paxson and Gar Forman are having a tough time drumming up serious trade interest. There aren't many teams interested in taking on an underachieving player with a bad attitude.
The Bulls' best hope might be to include Thomas in a deal for Houston's Tracy McGrady or possibly ship him to a dysfunctional Golden State team. Any way you look at it, Thomas' time in Chicago is coming to an end. If the Bulls don't find him a new home by the Feb. 18 deadline, they'll almost certainly renounce his rights to avoid a salary cap hold which would impact their ability to bid for the top free agents this summer.
Richard impressive in Bulls debut
From the disappointment of a failed high lottery pick to the successful debut of undrafted free agent Chris Richard, who was toiling in the NBA's Developmental League in Tulsa when the Bulls called. Richard was with the Bulls during training camp and played pretty well, including a double-figure points and rebounds preseason game at Minnesota. But with the Bulls wanting to avoid the luxury tax and keep roster flexibility they decided to cut Richard at the end of camp. He kept himself in shape playing in the D-League and was more than ready when his opportunity came.
Unlike Tyrus, Richard understands defensive rotations and knows his biggest job as a power forward is rebounding and being physical on the defensive end. Richard played 20 productive minutes in the win over Miami on Saturday, pulling down seven rebounds, blocking a couple of shots and playing good post defense against Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem. With Thomas and Joakim Noah out of the lineup, Richard's contributions played a key part in the Bulls' important win over a Miami team they'll be battling for playoff positioning the rest of the way.
Richard only signed a 10-day contract, but the Bulls would be well-served to keep him around for the rest of the season. He played with Noah at Florida and knows what winning basketball is all about. Given the Bulls' injury situation, it would be nice to have an extra big man around for the stretch run.
I'll see you Wednesday from the United Center during SportsNite at 6:30. We'll have the Bulls-Magic game for you on Comcast SportsNet at 7 p.m.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.