If you’re only scraping the surface of the events that have unfolded between Tim Thomas and the Dallas Mavericks this year, you probably think you’ve seen this all before.
The Mavs added Thomas in the off-season, taking a chance on a veteran and a shot-maker, as so many teams have before. Thomas put on his happy face and went to work, winning over fans with his versatile offensive game, as he’s done so many times before. He enjoyed a relative level of success considering his standing on the team, as Thomas has done so many times before. Then, he disappeared. He wasn’t traveling with the team, he wasn’t at practice, and certainly wasn’t playing in games.
It had to be the same old Tim Thomas, right? His act would inevitably wear down in a matter of time, and the same act that’s forced his divorce from so many franchises in the past would grind on Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks, until ultimately, they told him to just go home.
Any other season and you’d probably be right; Thomas hasn’t been without hardship in his career, and most of it was self-inflicted. He has all the talent in the world and struggles most to rein in that force between his temples, and that’s the very reason he’s had nine tours with seven different NBA teams. He could never quite figure it out.
But this season, Thomas was anything but a problem. There wasn’t a peep from within the Mavericks organization indicating that there was trouble brewing. He was doing a terrific job as a deep reserve for a veteran Dallas team, hitting big shots (like a game-tying three against Houston in December to force overtime) and putting up impressive point totals on occasion (22 vs. Houston in a different game, 23 vs. Cleveland).
It looked more and more like Thomas’ destructive tendencies had vanished, and though he lacked the star potential he once had, he was an able contributor and a perfect fit for his role with Dallas.
Then trouble hit, but a different kind of trouble than anything Thomas has brought on himself during his career. Thomas’ wife, Tricia, is very ill, and his mysterious disappearance from the team was nothing more than a man answering the call for his family.
Not exactly a predictable event when considering the Tim Thomas canon, but perhaps a gentle reminder that some of these guys deserve the benefit of the doubt, even when they haven’t necessarily earned it.