By Scott Lauer
October 4, 2012
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Bobcats. His column will appear on bobcats.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bobcats organization.
If anyone in the league is primed for a bounce-back season, Tyrus Thomas may be a prime example. Last season he averaged less than six points and lost his starting job. He was thin, and things just weren’t right.
Ushering in the 2012-13 season with new Head Coach Mike Dunlap, who has invigorated his spirit, Thomas is in camp looking stronger. He gained 20 pounds by eating well and staying away from fried foods. His body is right, and so is his mind. He recognizes a positive change in the culture of the organization.
Specifically, he loves the fact that Coach Dunlap is employing an aggressive, trapping defense, which as Coach Dunlap pointed out in practice on Wednesday, plays to Thomas’ strength. He has the length and athleticism to apply pressure on opposing point guards deep in the backcourt and can still hustle back to cover his own man in the opponent’s frontcourt.
When I asked Thomas about that philosophy today, his eyes widened saying, “that’s what I love to do.” I kidded with him, asking if he could play that style for 48 minutes and he said “yes.” Of course the idea of full-court pressing is to create a turnover, but in a worst-case scenario, the Bobcats will be shaving time off the shot clock, eliminating the opportunity to run multiple sets by the other team.
When Thomas was at his best (in the spring of 2010), he was a contributor to a Bobcats playoff team, acting as the best mid-range catch-and-shoot player on the team. He ignited the team with his energy, and you know that he’ll always protect the rim, attempting to block every shot – many times in the midst of transition defense. Coach Dunlap reviewed video from some of his best games in his career, and pointed out to everyone last night, that those were the games Thomas was very active defensively, often deflecting passes, leading to turnovers and easy scoring chances for his team.
Thomas was drafted fourth overall in the 2006 draft by Portland, and was immediately dealt to Chicago for LaMarcus Aldridge. He was a teenager out of LSU that night. He’s still only 26 years old, and is looking for a fresh start under a new regime here.
Ultimately, front offices crave athletes who are passionate competitors. Thomas embodies both characteristics. I really feel that he’ll benefit as much as anyone with this up-tempo style, particularly on the defensive end.