Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Spelling Jameer Nelson(notes) on Sunday, Jason Williams(notes) tallied six points in 12 minutes, making both his shots and both of his free throw attempts, adding two dimes while declining to turn the ball over.

A couple of weeks ago, I championed the idea of Zach Randolph(notes) making the All-Star team. He eventually did make the All-Star team, a move that most of you, I'm sure, are cool with.

Also, at some point this month, Tyrus Thomas(notes) will likely be traded from the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago had long ago decided not to re-sign the fourth-year forward, and they'll be looking to dump his expiring contract on another team for other expiring deals, looking fully forward to the free agent class of 2010.

These three players are the same guy, you know. The guy's a bit of a lout, a knucklehead; someone who will never get it. Until they do get it, of course.

Jason Williams? He used to look off Peja Stojakovic(notes) behind the arc and Chris Webber(notes) on the trail in order to take a 30-footer from the elbow extended. It wasn't because he was selfish - he also used to force passes where they didn't belong when a stretch lay-up would have worked - but it definitely was because J-Will didn't quite "get it" at a level that most of us would have preferred.

At some point in 2003-04, under the tutelage of Hubie Brown, Williams suddenly decided to place himself amongst the tops in the league at assist-to-turnover ratio. He shot when appropriate. He still used a bit of flash, but he also bounce-passed and made the right move. It continues to this day. Williams turned 34 last September, and despite his advancing years, he actually seems to drive more in 2009-10 than he did in 1999-00.

Randolph? His statistics are right along the lines of his career averages, but he's not taking an entire team out of its offense in order to create this sort of production. He's not holding the ball after grabbing a defensive rebound in order to influence the point guard to slow the pace down. He's not endlessly staying in that triple-threat position; a position every defender and their mother knew was only going to end up with one low-percentage "threat," a flat-footed mid-range jumper. Finally, Randolph is getting it.

Tyrus Thomas?


I can't think of a single player, with the possible exception of New York's David Lee(notes), that has been jerked around more than Thomas. And I can't think of a single player, with no exception, that has acted like more of a prat than Tyrus. A nasty combination.

One doesn't lead to the other, but it doesn't help. Thomas was drafted as a project by the Bulls in 2006, but he was never treated like a project. Instead, he was treated like some four-year college starter that had been on CBS too many times to mention, and someone who was used to the grind. Thomas wasn't used to the grind. He was a basketball scrub until his late teens. He only had one year of slapping the backboards at LSU. He was ready, but he wasn't ready.

The Bulls not only acted as if he was ready, but he was also added to the Chicago roster at the start of Scott Skiles' weird passive-aggressive phase. When Skiles - who often seems like a perfect mix of the best qualities of Larry Brown and Don Nelson - started utilizing the worst qualities of Larry Brown and Don Nelson. The strange rotations. The stubbornness. The attention to obsession, rather than detail.          

Thomas played less than a year and a half under Skiles, but it may have well been two years. Because Skiles was replaced on an interim basis by Jim Boylan, a pointless move in retrospect, because Boylan was Skiles' number two, and he promptly spent the entirety of his obviously-interim gig taking out Skiles' indirect frustrations with certain players out on the kids who had wronged Boylan's buddy the most.

So Thomas would leave the game, for long stretches, for no apparent reason. And, just as much, he would stay in the game for no apparent reason. Almost to a night, the good play would go unrewarded, and the bad play would go unacknowledged. How in the hell was this kid, this man, supposed to learn?

Left to his own devices, the project acted like - and I know you're shocked - a project. Until it was/is time for Chicago to write off another cheapo lottery pick, and take in the savings.

It didn't have to be like this. And, potential suitors? Thomas doesn't have to be like this.

You can make a deal, for a very tradeable contract that matches up with most MLE-salary structures, in its last year no less, and take in 30 games of inspired play. This league is so stupidly ridiculous that, of course, things always seem to flesh in the most obvious of ways. And the obvious expectation is that Thomas will be on a full "I'll show them" kick, and play exceedingly well once acquired by a team outside of Cook County.

He may not get it for good, in true Jason Williams-style, but he can do a team, a bench, a frontcourt rotation, good. He could work for the Spurs. He could work for a quite a few teams. Freed from the "figure it out on your own, kid"-clutches of the Chicago Bulls, for the rest of this year at least, it's an almost certainty.

Make that certainty your own, teams.

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