NBA AM: Tyrus Thomas Determined to Resume Career

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Tyrus Thomas Determined to Resume NBA Career

Tyrus Thomas had always been successful. As a high school star in Baton Rouge, he nearly averaged a triple-double and was honored as one of Louisiana’s best players. In his lone collegiate season at LSU, his incredible athleticism allowed him to become the team’s starting power forward and fill the stat sheet. He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, leading the program to their first Final Four since 1986 and earning the Most Valuable Player award of his tournament region. Shortly after, Thomas was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

A rocky seven-year NBA career followed and then Thomas experienced what he calls “one of the hardest times of my life.”

Thomas disappeared from the spotlight after being amnestied by the Charlotte Bobcats in July of 2013. In addition to losing his career and stepping away from the game he loved, Thomas also went through a divorce and what could have been a career-ending surgery to remove a cyst from his back.

“I can’t begin to tell you what was going through my mind,” Thomas told Basketball Insiders. “It all felt overwhelming – being released, going through a divorce and then the injury that led to me ultimately having to have surgery.”

During that time, Thomas was weighing whether to have surgery and trying to decide if it was worth going through.

“I would wake up, pick my basketball up off the floor, bounce it around the house and say, ‘I want to play. I have something to prove to everyone who believed in me. I have something to prove to myself. I can do this,'” Thomas said. “Then, I’d wake up the next day not feeling good physically and I’d think, ‘This surgery isn’t worth it.’ I had good days and I had bad days.”

It was a tough time in Thomas’ life, but now the 28-year-old is once again healthy and has a new perspective on life and the game. He has relocated to San Antonio, the home of his new agent Roger Montgomery, and he’s training for an NBA comeback. He has taken the positives from his experiences and is hoping to resume his NBA career this season.

“My body is feeling good,” Thomas said. “I’m just getting back into the rhythm of everything. Since my surgery, this has really been the first time that I’ve been able to work out and give it my all, doing everything without any restrictions. I’m just trying to get in shape, get my body back to the way it needs to be to play an NBA season.”

Thomas admits that he didn’t always handle things the right way during his first stint in the NBA and believes many of his setbacks resulted from immaturity and being unprepared mentally for the challenges the league would bring his way. Now, Thomas is hoping to show teams just how much he has grown up.

“I was 19 years old when I first entered the NBA; it’s no excuse and I’ve owned my mistakes, but whew have I grown a lot,” Thomas said. “Over the last two years, I’ve grown not only as a player but as a person. I now realize the opportunities that, at times, I took for granted. I look back now and I was just a poor kid from South Baton Rouge. I didn’t understand then what I understand now. Everything happened at once: getting amnestied, going through a divorce and making the decision if I wanted to come back and play basketball because of the severity of the surgery. Going through all of that, I definitely grew up.”

Thomas is determined to change the perception of him. Off the court, he runs Tyrus Thomas Inc. – a non-profit he founded in 2010 that focuses on “implementing programs geared towards youth outreach and enhancing the community through development.” His signature program C.A.T.C.H. (Caring and Actively Teaching Children Hope) won the National Jefferson Award for Public Service and was featured in the 2010 report on volunteerism to the White House. Thomas received numerous community awards while in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Bobcats, and he frequently speaks to groups of students to spread his positive, motivational message.

On the court, Thomas averaged 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in his first seven years in the NBA. Thomas’ best season was in 2008-09 with the Bulls, when he averaged 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals. As he looks to continue his NBA career, he’s determined to find a good situation where he can thrive.

“I think if I’m in a good situation, the perception will change; I think that’s inevitable,” Thomas said. “I want to find a team that I can mesh with and add value to.”

Larry Brown, Thomas’ former coach with the Bobcats, believes he can make a successful comeback into the NBA.

“Tyrus has got a lot of good years ahead of him and I know he’s talented enough and cares enough to play again,” Brown said in a statement through Montgomery Sports Group. “I enjoyed my time with him, he was a great team player and I’ll do anything I can to get him back into the league.”

The NBA regular season tips off on Tuesday. Once Thomas is back in game shape and roster spots open up around the league due to injuries and transactions, don’t be surprised if Thomas gets an opportunity to salvage his career.

“Everyone isn’t given second chances, and I have a legitimate second chance,” Thomas said. “I can’t let this opportunity slip away.”

Villanueva Earns Roster Spot in Dallas

Over the summer, Basketball Insiders ran a web series that showed NBA veteran Charlie Villanueva’s efforts to continue his career and get signed by a team.

The Dallas Mavericks ultimately signed Villanueva to a non-guaranteed deal, but there was no certainty that he’d make the final roster. However, after strong play in training camp and preseason games, Villanueva beat out Bernard James, who had a guaranteed deal, as well as fellow camp invites Ivan Johnson and Doron Lamb.

The 30-year-old veteran is thrilled to have this opportunity and he believes he can contribute in Dallas. His last few years with the Detroit Pistons were very underwhelming, but Villanueva has career averages of 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds and has shown he can be a productive role player when put in the right situation.

On his official blog, Villanueva discussed his journey and excitement for the upcoming season:

So here I am in Dallas, the regular season is around the corner and I am so hyped about it. I have to get a place to live, I am tired of room service, and I am ready to get this part of my career underway. I haven’t been this excited about basketball in a really long time.

This was truly a challenging process. I was talking to my boy, RJ (Richard Jefferson), and he really put making the team into perspective. This was a hard thing to do. I never wavered with confidence but if you really think about it, this was challenging. The team was set… they had 15 guaranteed contracts before I even met with Coach (Rick) Carlisle the very first time. I had to beat out guys who (Mark) Cuban already committed to. And Cubes and Co. have always told me that this is a team that would not worry about money… that they would sign the best players for the team to contend for a championship. I didn’t take a dollar to join this team at training camp. I had to come to Dallas and EARN my spot. A workout turned into a camp invite, which turned into making the team, which could turn into anything. Imagine if I am part of a process to win a title? How crazy of a story will that be? And to be really truthful, most of the time, I didn’t know where I stood. I had a lot of good moments during this process, but I also had moments where I was clueless on my standing.

This has been a totally different experience for me. Obviously, I was picked in the Top 10 NBA Draft, had a great rookie season, made some good waves at Milwaukee and then went to Detroit with a ton of promise. We know how that story ended… it didn’t work out. BUT I never had to be a part of an experience where every single day, every single play, every single shot, every single moment… I was fighting for my life. Fighting for my dream… and little by little, my dream was becoming a reality.

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. And trust me life is interesting. Always believe in yourself. Always believe in your dream. Always have the courage to confront your dream.

Be sure to check out Villanueva’s blog and look back on his web series, as his journey to this point has been very interesting.