Tyrus Thomas was asked to stay away from the Charlotte Bobcats’ road trip

It’s hard to believe that Tyrus Thomas could top his miserable 2011-12 season, one that saw him play through ulcers, get into a shoving match with his 68-year old coach, and shoot 36.7 percent even while working in the frontcourt. And yet … here we are!

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The Charlotte Bobcats have told Thomas to stay home as the franchise gears up for a four-game Western swing. The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell was the first to report that Thomas, some three years after being traded to Charlotte, is being excused from the excursion. From Rick’s report:

Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said Monday the front office felt Thomas’s time was better spent in Charlotte, doing some physical rehabilitation and individual on-court work, rather than be on the road with his team.

Thomas, the Bobcats’ second-most expensive player this season at $8 million, has fallen out of the rotation entirely of late. Monday’s road game in Portland was the tenth straight game when Thomas was designated inactive and the 12th game in which he did not play.

In fact, when the Bobcats acquired another power forward, Josh McRoberts, at the trade deadline, McRoberts was activated for his first game before he had participated in a Bobcats practice or shootaround.

The guy that was once swapped for the second overall pick in the 2006 draft was just kept home because his team didn’t want to bother to pay for airfare and swank hotel rooms. Obviously, the concerns run far deeper than this, but that is the immediate takeaway.

If you’ll recall, Thomas blamed his awful 2011-12 run on ulcers caused by too much “New Orleans cuisine,” and not worries over his play. “Life happened,” was Thomas’ response to Bonnell last fall when asked why he played so poorly, and the hope entering 2012-13 was that a sturdier Thomas (working under a rookie coach with an open mind, in Mike Dunlap) would turn things around.

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Charlotte certainly turned things around to start the season – Thomas played in each of the team’s first eight games, a run that saw the Bobcats stake out an impressive (for them) .500 record. Thomas was shooting only 36 percent from the field during that run, though, and he tore a muscle in his right leg in a loss to Memphis, one that saw him miss all six shots from the field. Thomas returned earlier than expected to start the new year, but despite plenty (over 50) of minutes spread out over his first two games back, he missed 14 of 20 shots in his first two stints in return.

Since then, the impact has been about the same. Thomas comes off the bench sporadically, misses a few shots, and then disappears for a few days. Tyrus is shooting just 31.7 percent on the season, and fouling at a rate unseen since his rookie year.

Ah, that rookie year.

Thomas was a dominant defensive force for a Chicago Bulls team that made it to the second round, an energetic player that ran like mad and hustled without provocation. He was also yanked in and out of the rotation for misdeeds outside observers couldn’t spot, and a project player working under someone like Scott Skiles just wasn’t going to cut it. It’s nobody’s fault but Thomas’ own that he’s turned into a slug, barely moving off the ball when his greatest attribute is quickness and hops, but one could safely presume that Tyrus Thomas had one chance at sustaining that motor, and that Chicago lost him in that first season.

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Now, at age 26 – seriously, the guy is only 26 – Thomas may be lost for good. The Bobcats have several other forwards in the rotation ahead of Tyrus, guys like the aforementioned Josh McRoberts who barely had time to pick a new number before being given Thomas’ minutes. Tyrus hasn’t played since Feb. 6, when he put up 10 points and two rebounds in 24 minutes in a loss to Cleveland, and he can’t even work his way to the bench (in street clothes) on a team on pace to win 18 games. And that’s “18 games” after a 7-5 start, mind you. The Bobcats could use the help.

Thomas will likely be cut this summer under the NBA’s amnesty provision, while still making the rest of the two years and $18 million he’s owed. For a onetime prospect that won’t turn 27 until August, he would seem to be a perfect reclamation project. Don’t expect many teams to be falling over themselves to aid in his rehabilitation, though.

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