The Chicago Bulls have suspended second-year forward Tyrus Thomas two games for missing practice on Wednesday. John Paxson, general manager of the Bulls, declined to elaborate on the situation, though a representative for Thomas cited "personal reasons." Interim head coach Jim Boylan said the situation was simply disappointing. "The way I handled it, yeah, I regret it," Thomas admitted.
This latest situation does nothing to help the reputation of Tyrus Thomas. During every nationally televised game, the announcers already explain the so-called immaturity Thomas exhibits. Often times, they point out the dunk contest incident. In 2006, he told reporters he was "into the free money" offered for just participating. Those comments led to a fine of $10,000 by the Bulls organization and a media uproar.
Unfortunately, the people who vilified Thomas last season will do the same again. Who cared that Thomas had announced, even before the that controversy, that he would be donating all slam dunk earnings to his former high school? Nobody. Instead, they bashed Thomas, labeling him as another selfish, money-oriented athlete.
Through that all, Thomas fought for a cause he believed in: improving the lives of inner-city youth. He established the Tyrus Thomas Foundation last year "to nurture the development of leadership, scholarship, service and health of at-risk youth through exposure to cultural activities that will broaden their intellectual horizons, academic strategies and educational competency, as well as promote healthy lives through physical activities." The foundation is rooted in five core values : 1. Perseverance; 2. Respect; 3. Integrity; 4. Determination; and 5. Enthusiasm. (P.R.I.D.E.)
Nobody seemed to care.
During the summer, Thomas held a golf tournament in his hometown. Celebrities participated in the event, with all proceeds assisting the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
Nobody seemed to care.
Just a few weeks ago, the All-Star game was held in New Orleans. Thomas hosted a celebrity bowling event. The money raised will aid victims of Hurricane Katrina and their rebuilding efforts.
Again, nobody seemed to care. The few who noticed thought highly of the man many labeled as immature or a "thug." They defended him, talking about his strong character.
Then, Thomas skips practice. All of the good he has done throughout the year has been negated. Thomas is once again the malcontent the national media portrayed him as. The facts do not matter.
Once again, who cares if Thomas has a right to be upset? After Ben Wallace and Joe Smith were traded, Paxson said Thomas and Joakim Noah would receive increased, steady playing time. In four games, Thomas averaged 14 points, 8.75 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3.75 assists in a four game stretch, outplaying newly-acquired forward Drew Gooden.
Then, inexcusably, Boylan benched Thomas in favor of Gooden. Boylan's only comment was that "it's time." (For a great analysis of Jim Boylan, visit Kelly Dwyer.) This was the second time Thomas was benched despite playing well. Early in the season, when everyone in the starting lineup except Tyrus sucked, he was benched .For the second time, Thomas played to the company line, saying he was fine with coming off the bench as long as the team won. (For the record, Thomas denied playing time had anything to do with it.)
The last four games, Thomas has played well. Despite this, the minutes he received were inconsistent. One night he would receive twenty-five minutes, the next night he would have nine. After that, the minutes would increase. Those games would be followed by another night with little playing time.
Fortunately, some good as resulted from the situation. Thomas spoke positively of a phone conversation he had with Boylan following the missed practice. "I'd say we broke some barriers," Thomas said. "We talked about a lot of different things, personal, basketball. I need to at least call and talk to somebody and not be so secluded like I normally am."
It is easy to understand Thomas' frustration. More difficult, and nearly impossible, is justifying his actions. Quite simply, he was wrong to miss practice without permission or notice. As a Tyrus Thomas supporter and, to extent, apologist, it is sad to see him erase all of the good he has built up with one stupid, immature action.
Tyrus Thomas had shown he is better than that.