Heading into October, it looked like this season was going to decide Tyrus Thomas’ fate as a member of the Chicago Bulls. However, rumors seem to indicate that Chicago management has seen pretty much everything they need to see out of their enigmatic forward. Apparently, the Bulls have had discussions with “several teams” and an “ongoing dialogue” with New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh.
The theoretical deal would be a bargain platter of Thomas (who’s still out with a forearm injury) and Jerome James (who, let’s face it, was never going to play for the Bulls) in exchange for Knicks forward Al Harrington.
According to one league executive briefed on the talks: “Nothing is imminent, but both sides would like to figure out a way to do this.”
Walsh has been understandably reluctant to part with Harrington — currently is averaging 19.5 points (on 45 percent shooting) and 6.2 rebounds with a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.2 — but the Knicks aren’t going anywhere this season, with or without Harrington. Why not roll the dice with a young stud like Ty? Mike D’Antoni’s run ‘n gun offense can alway use athletic jumping jacks like Thomas. If any system is going to unleash Ty’s potential, it’s New York’s Seven Seconds or Less Lite. Think about it: a system that forces a player to shoot early and often without requiring him to give consistent effort on defense. It was made for guys like Tyrus!
As for the Bulls, they would get a certified frontcourt scorer (which they desperately, desperately need) who can play both power forward (as a starter) and small forward (to relieve Luol Deng). Adding scoring and versatility never hurts. But just as (if not more) importantly, Harrington has a $10.2 million contract that’s set to expire next summer. Ergo, the Bulls would still have plenty of spare cash to pursue impending free agents like Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, et al. (I didn’t include LeBron James on that list because, let’s face it, he’s not coming here.)
It’s been fairly obvious since the preseason that Taj Gibson is being groomed to replace Thomas anyway. And, frankly, he’s probably worth about 70 percent of “Good Tyrus” and around 127 percent of “Bad Tyrus” already. So if the Bulls can bring in a stopgap player who can provide instant offense and frontcourt versatility with no long-term obligations, it seems like a borderline no-brainer.
The downsides, of course, include the following. First, for all we know, Tyrus was set to have a breakout season before he got injured. After already investing several years in his development — although it could easily be argued that Chicago’s efforts at “developing” Thomas have been poorly concieved and even more poorly executed — it would be rather painful to see him explode for another team. Second, Al Harrington is young (well, 29 anyway), talented and has skills that are more “proven” than “potential.” However, if you browse over his career history, you’ll notice that he’s never really been an integral part of a winning situation. Numbers are nice — we know for certain that Al can provide 18-ish points and 6-ish rebounds a game — but it’s even better when the numbers equate to victories.
Maybe Harrington has never been in the right situation. Maybe the Bulls would finally provide him with one. Who knows? But either way, it’s an intriguing possibility. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of it.