Rookie Thomas is spoiled, rotten
Comments on dunk contest show side many haven't seen
On Pro Basketball
February 7, 2007
SACRAMENTO -- How's that adage go? Better to remain quiet and let them think you the fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
Yes, folks, introducing Tyrus Thomas.
The Bulls rookie, likely spending time these days in the Latrell Sprewell school of public relations, was justifiably fined by the team for his astounding comments that his participation in the All-Star Game dunk contest was purely mercenary on his part.
You could just see NBA Commissioner David Stern with his head in his hands, another of his kids saying the darnedest things. The discussion at NBA headquarters Tuesday was whether to throw the bum out of the contest.
After all, here was a player appearing to confirm just what many believe, that the NBA is composed of a wandering band of ungrateful thugs who are selfish, spoiled brats just in it for the riches they can gain.
My experience over the last quarter-century is that is not true, that the vast majority of players, despite the occasional Rasheed-ish or Fortson-esque outburst, are decent people who truly appreciate and treasure the game.
Not jerks like, yes, Thomas.
This is one of those things you hear at parties from reporters, the stuff we don't write. See, we are not as bad as advertised. In fact, we try to write about the games and try not to embarrass the players. We really are more guilty of romanticizing the players than tearing them down.
It's one of those unwritten rules, like ignoring Gary Hart's philandering in the 1984 presidential race. Reporters knew about it, but that was his private life. If he wants to live like that, fine, even when he is running for the nation's highest office.
It's especially so in sports. Publish or perish! Nonsense.
Those kinds of stories are mostly unheard of.
Everyone deserves their privacy and if it doesn't interfere with your job or you don't make a spectacle of yourself, well, it's just good party talk.
But once Hart challenged everyone to prove it, well, sorry, your cover is blown.
Make a public fool of yourself, then the Bull has no clothes.
Same with Thomas.
He has been one of the most difficult rookies to come along in the NBA in years?angry, defiant, condescending, arrogant and having little time or interest for anyone below his self-perceived stately place in life.
You want to be like that? Fine. There are plenty of other players to talk to. Good guys. The Bulls really are filled with them.
Like Thabo Sefolosha. What a wonderful young man.
I was watching this scene one day in the Bulls locker room.
After games, the players are ripping off tape and dirty clothes, tossing them into a big basket or tub for good-natured equipment man John Ligmanowski to dispose of or clean. Despite the fact they are supposed to be some of the best marksmen in the world, Ben Wallace excluded, the clothes and tape rarely seem to hit their mark. Everyone gets up and leaves. But Sefolosha went over to pick up his clothes or litter and deposit them where they belong. He apparently didn't want to make more work for Ligmanowski.
The NBA likes players to talk to reporters, but it is not required. Reporters generally know and don't bother someone who isn't interested. But the players understand the relationships with reporters and usually are pleasant, if not deep.
Thomas, who has occasional flashes of candor, generally stares down with disdain, mumbles some cliché and walks away. His response about the dunk contest to Tribune beat reporter K.C. Johnson was typical. He can't be bothered with mere mortals.
Not that this is new.
As far back as the NBA draft, league officials said Thomas was abrupt and uninterested when some tried to make conversation with him. There always seemed to be some bizarre sense of entitlement with him, that anything asked of him is a burden, that the media and team and league officials are some nuisance.
This sort of attitude can get a pass because sometimes you need a jerk to win.
It often has been said, even by the coaching staff, the Bulls players are too nice, a product of the organization's appropriate philosophy of seeking out players of character who are committed to the game, who want to be at practice and play hard. So how did the Bulls end up drafting Thomas? My guess is it wasn't a very good draft, and they decided to take a chance on talent.
Thomas has that, but he also has an edge, a desirable commodity often in short supply.
He seemed almost insulted when reporters asked him about playing against Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan. He was Tyrus Thomas, after all.
But you take a look back over championship teams and there were a lot of these guys. Sprewell helped lead two previously underachieving teams to conference finals, Chicago-favorite James Posey, Rasheed Wallace and Vernon Maxwell come to mind as effective if irascible players. And don't forget old-time tough guys such as Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Jim Loscutoff and Maurice Lucas. This type of player is not always angry or unfriendly, except to opponents.I wouldn't quite get rid of Thomas. I would just hope he keeps his mouth shut, lets his play speak and permits us to believe he's someone different than we know.
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune