It’s the question that seemingly cannot be answered: What, exactly, should the Bulls do with Tyrus Thomas?
Start him or bring him in off the bench? Keep him or trade him? Let him shoot jump shots or put electrodes in his jersey that will give him a terrible shock any time he attempts a field goal that cannot be described as a “dunk” or “layup”?
Well, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro has answered at least one of those questions. Tyrus will not start. Not yet, anyway.
Said Del Negro: “Taj has earned every minute. With Taj and Kirk (Hinrich) in the lineup, we’ve had better starts at times. Guys are going to get their minutes if they’re productive, execute the game plan and know what we’re doing. I’m happy with the starters right now and there’s no reason to change anything until I feel differently.”
Make no mistake. There’s main reason Thomas will remain a sub for now is that he remains as inconsistent as ever.
He was great in his first three games back from injury. He scored 21 points in his first game back, grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds in his second game, and finished with 19 and 7 with a game-high 14 free throw attempts in his third game. Tyrus also made several game-changing defensive plays in those three contests…all Bulls wins, by the way.
In the last three games, however, Tyrus has scored total of 19 points on 8-for-24 shooting, and he has almost as many fouls and turnovers (14) as rebounds (16).
Said Vinny: “The more consistent he is on the court, the more minutes he’ll get just like everybody else. We need him to play well and he knows that. I don’t think he has been in as good of a rhythm as he was the first few. He gave us such a big boost when he came back. He’ll be fine. I thought he had an excellent practice (Thursday). We need his activity and shot-blocking and running the court. He gives us more of an athletic presence. We’ll get him back on track.”
That’s sort of been the story of Thomas’ entire career in Chicago. He can do so much, has so much potential, but it cannot be harnessed on a nightly basis. It’s the Tale of Two Tyruses. There’s Good Tyrus, who can swing games in the Bulls’ favor by swatting shots, ripping down rebounds and swooping to the rim for easy baskets. Then there’s Bad Tyrus, who settles for long-range jump shots, gets pushed around in the paint, coughs up the ball and bungles his defensive rotations.
Will the real Tyrus Thomas please stand up?
Of course, we don’t even know how much longer Thomas will be on the team. With the NBA trade deadline approaching, the Bulls might very well consider moving him if the right deal presents itself. But until then, Vinny and the rest of the team will continue hoping and praying for a little consistency from their enigmatic big man. That may very well be the factor that determines whether the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls are pretty good…or mediocre.