Deshaun Thomas jumps for joy, not because he was told to (Harry How/ Getty).
In the world of professional sports, it's common for draft prospects to throw themselves at the mercy of their prospective employers. With most players having dreamed of making the NBA for as long as they can remember, their natural inclination is to do everything possible to please any team with a chance at drafting them. Any question or request is suitable. It's the best way for a player to prove he's ready to buy into the franchise's culture and long-term plans.
These actions are so prevalent that any example of a player pushing back against a team request deserves notice. Such is the case with forward Deshaun Thomas, who left Ohio State after his junior season. From Jason Lloyd for Ohio.com (via PBT):
If the San Antonio Spurs choose Deshaun Thomas in next month’s NBA draft, they might have a hard time reaching him to tell him. That’s because when the Spurs asked the former Ohio State star for his phone number Wednesday night, he refused to give it to them.
Thomas said teams asked him plenty of difficult and interesting questions during his interview process at the combine. But the most interesting, he said, was the fact the Spurs’ first question was for his cell phone number and his e-mail address. He gave them the e-mail, but not the phone number.
“I can’t go around giving it out to everyone,” Thomas said Thursday with a laugh. “Now if they want to draft me, I’d be happy to give it to them.”
There are a few ways to look at Thomas's refusal. By one view, he's being foolishly protective of a largely unimportant personal fact, something that professionals willfully put on business cards. DraftExpress.com rates Thomas as the 45th-best prospect available, which essentially means he's not even guaranteed of being selected in June's draft. Logically, Thomas should accede to any request a team makes, whether that involves handing out a phone number or answering more personal information. If he really cares about getting a job, he'll submit to the process no matter what.
Yet, from another perspective, there's something very respectable about Thomas's decision. The draft process is structured to give players very little control over their futures, with teams essentially allowed to divide them amongst themselves according to set salary levels and a fairly bizarre lottery process. Thomas, in his own small way, is attempting to inject some level of personal control into a system that turns him into a commodity at every opportunity. By agreeing to email communication but withholding his phone number, Thomas has told the Spurs (and presumably any other team that asks the same) that he's an individual with his own professional needs and desires. If he's going to enter into a business partnership with a team — this is employment, after all — he needs some assurances that his bosses will respect some aspects of his privacy. He's setting limits without refusing any communication of any kind.
It may seem odd to deny the Spurs' request given the standard NBA operating procedure, but Thomas has merely expressed a very basic human need for respect. It might hurt his chances at being drafted, but at least he's willing to stand up for his principles.
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