April 13, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Charlotte Bobcats head coach Paul Silas during a game against the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE
A week or so ago, I watched the Bobcats get utterly dismantled. That's a pretty common occurrence for whenever I see them play. This game was against the Detroit Pistons. It was a complete dismantling as the Bobcats fell by 24. Afterwards in the recap, I said "So, so, so much needs to change. The roster, the coaching (strategies or personnel, whichever), the whole gosh darn culture."
And in the midst of one of the worst NBA seasons ever recorded (the Bobcats currently sit at 7-53 heading into tonight's game), a team that had been racked with on-the-court problems found themselves with their first major off-the-court one.
After a loss to the Celtics Sunday night, Paul Silas confronted Tyrus Thomas, whom Silas had thought was being a little too chummy with Celtics players, sources told Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski. After receiving a tongue-lashing from Silas, Thomas lashed back with his own words. Silas instructed Thomas not to talk back under penalty of suspension. At that point, Thomas stood up and Silas shoved him towards his locker. There were no further blows from either party and other players separated the two. Both met with President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins and were subsequently fined for their actions. "We handled it internally and talked to both the player and the coach and moved on," Higgins said.
"End of story."
If only it were. But this is probably just the beginning.
Externally, it seems all is back to normal. Thomas went on to play 10 more minutes the following night. Shoot, if this story hadn't been published, would anyone have even known? Probably not. It's not like a loss to any team by one of the worst NBA teams ever is going to note a sudden departure from the status quo (ie. losing).
This type of outburst certainly comes as a surprise because of the nature of the incident. But it's hardly far-fetched to imagine a growing divide between the players and coaching staff on a team that's clearly frustrated with itself. How often do you hear the "Coach X has lost control of the lockeroom" reports? As for physical incursions, those are much more rare.
So I can only imagine this has to spell the end for at least one of -- if not both -- of these men's stints with the Charlotte Bobcats, despite Higgins declaring this case closed.
Thomas has always been an unpredictable firecracker. He had incredible athleticism and promise to match it until his injury last year. Now Tyrus Thomas seems to only be a shell of his former self. His rebounding has shown marked decreases. His scoring is limited to the rare layup (I cannot remember a dunk from him like I used to) and midrange jump shots.
His name has come up for amnesty consideration and rightfully so. People can talk about how he was underweight and played at the wrong position for a fair amount of time, but that has long since been changed. Is it worth the $8+ million per year to see this kind of play with merely possible marginal improvements? It was not an open-and-close case in either favor before, but with Thomas' actions, it might just be now. Larry Brown may have been an awful coach for the future, but somehow he got Thomas' best effort every night. Maybe it's the injury. Who knows. All I know is I don't remember any stories about Tyrus Thomas being more mentally engaged with a fan than with his team under Brown. The immaturity is grating, and that is exponentially aggravating in such a season as this. Thomas clashed with then-Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro a fair amount. And now he's clashed with Paul Silas. There's a clear lack of respect for both coaches. And suddenly it's all cool between Silas and Thomas after one night? Pardon me if I find that hard to believe.
I think this marks the end of Tyrus Thomas' stay in Charlotte. Coaching is a two-way street. Not only do the coaches have to earn respect of the players, the players must earn it from the coaches, too. It's evident that Thomas had not done that. Perhaps this is the nudge the Bobcats brass needed to get to push them in the direction to amnestying Thomas. I think it might just be.
This could also be the beginning steps in what could end with the removal of Paul Silas as head coach at the end of this season. Obviously we can see Silas isn't getting the respect of all the players. What's more, the Bobcats will be looking to eschew whatever they can from this historically bad season if there's a a similar or better interested option. Things have to change, and the coaching is probably one of them.
I'm sure this will blow over superficially, especially considering there are only five more games remaining. But beneath the outside shell, this will have more implications than just a couple fines. Change needs to happen this offseason, and with this latest blow, it's shown it needs to happen in many aspects.