Monday, November 9th
by Mark Schanowski
Now that Tyrus Thomas is out 4-to-6 weeks because of a fractured left forearm suffered in a freak weight training accident, the question is obvious: How much longer will Tyrus be with the Bulls?
Will he still be with the team after the trading deadline in February? And is there any chance he's still a Bull at the start of next season?
The front office did not seriously pursue a long term contract extension with Thomas before the Nov. 2 league deadline, while other members of the '06 draft class like Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Rajon Rondo were generously rewarded by their teams. And in case you weren't aware, the Bulls' goal of signing an All-Star caliber free agent next season would force them to renounce Thomas' rights before next July 1 to free up needed room under the salary cap. Now, that's not saying Tyrus doesn't have the chance to change their minds, but it will be a lot more difficult trying to come back from a broken arm, with rookie Taj Gibson getting a chance to establish himself in the starting lineup.
Remember, Thomas' bad week began with a post-practice critique in front of the whole team last Monday, courtesy of co-captain Lindsey Hunter. The coaching staff chose to go with a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter of a close loss in Miami the night before, leaving Tyrus on the bench. Thomas has had a few disagreements with Vinny Del Negro and his staff over the last season-plus, and it's no stretch to say he can be a difficult player to coach at times. Tyrus sees himself as a jump-shooting, scoring small forward, while the coaches want him spending most of his time in the paint, blocking shots and controlling the backboards on both ends. When Thomas came to training camp talking about new-found maturity and a breakout season, we were all intrigued. He certainly has the athletic ability and work ethic to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Now, the injury and the solid play of Gibson will mean reduced minutes and less of a chance to establish himself as a possible star of the future.
So, what happens next? The Bulls say surgery on Thomas' broken left forearm went extremely well, and he could return to the court in four weeks. We certainly wish Tyrus the best in his recovery, and the Bulls could use his shot-blocking and rebounding talents, whether he's used in a starting role or brought in off the bench. In the meantime, John Paxson and Gar Forman will have to consider bringing in another frontcourt player. It's pretty obvious the coaches don't have a lot of confidence in top draft pick James Johnson right now, and the Bulls can't afford to play Luol Deng 47 minutes like they did against Charlotte last Saturday. Del Negro can get by at times using John Salmons at the small forward spot and Deng at power forward, but that won't work against the more physical teams in the league. Names being thrown around as possible additions include Chris Richard, the former Florida forward who was cut near the end of training camp, former Bulls forward Linton Johnson and former Thornton H.S. star Melvin Ely.
With only 10 healthy players on the roster right now, what would you do? We would love to see your comments in the section below, and feel free to drop me an e-mail.
I'll see you Tuesday night from the United Center. Kendall Gill joins me for live pregame coverage of the Bulls-Nuggets match-up during SportsNite at 6:30.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.