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Thomas' production falling off for lowly Bobcats

By Steve Reed

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 21 2012 4:49 p.m. MST

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Bobcats gave Tyrus Thomas a five-year, $40 million contract in 2010 figuring he'd develop into a force for them at power forward.

That hasn't happened.

Thomas' production hasn't come close to matching his hefty salary, particularly of late where he's nearly disappeared from the NBA radar screen altogether.

Thomas has failed to score in three of Charlotte's last four games and has seen his playing time drastically reduced since being benched in favor of Boris Diaw at the four spot.

It's safe to say the NBA-worst Bobcats were expecting a little more from a veteran who's making $7.3 million this season and is scheduled to make an average of $8.7 million the next three seasons.

"The frustrating part is we need him to play up to his level so he can help us win games," coach Paul Silas said. "What he makes (in salary) and that kind of stuff, I don't care about that. But I look at what he does out on the court and he's just not playing that well."

Thomas declined comment through the team's public relations department for this story.

Teammate D.J. White simply believes Thomas is in a slump and will break out.

"I don't think he's frustrated," White said. "I think he's working through it. He's in here early getting up shots. Even on the road he's staying after practice and working on his game. As basketball players we go through some things some time. You have to stay focused and believe in yourself and he's doing that right now."

If he is still confident, it's not showing.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Thomas is averaging just 6.1 points per game, his lowest mark since his rookie year with the Chicago Bulls when he came into the league as the fourth overall pick out of LSU. He's only scored in double digits in five of Charlotte's 31 games and 13 is his season high.

Much of his problem lies in his accuracy.

He's shooting just 35 percent from the field, by far the lowest mark of his career. In his previous five seasons Thomas shot a combined 45 percent from the floor.

Silas said he's "not really sure" why Thomas' production has dropped off so sharply this season, particularly in February where he's averaged just 3.7 points per game.

"He's just got to concentrate on his game and what he's doing wrong and not," Silas said. "But we've talked about it. We need him to be at the top of his game. He's played a lot at the three-spot, so now moving back to four he's had to make a lot of adjustment. He just has to play better."

Until he does, his playing time might continue to decrease.

In the past four games Thomas has only played a combined 30 minutes, and that has nothing to do with injuries.

On the surface, Thomas would seem to be a perfect candidate for the amnesty clause this coming offseason but it's unclear of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan would be willing to swallow that contract and pay Thomas $26 million simply to clear salary cap space.

The Bobcats might be more inclined to dump DeSagana Diop's contract instead. He's due $7.3 million next season and is averaging 3.4 rebounds and less than a point per game this season.

What's even more concerning for the Bobcats is they still owe the Bulls a first-round draft pick for Thomas as part of the trade that brought him to Charlotte two years ago.

Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said the team's problems are too widespread to pick out any one player who might be struggling.

The Bobcats are a league-worst 4-27 entering Wednesday night's game against the Indiana Pacers.

"Our whole team is struggling," Henderson said. "We lost by 40 points that last game. So whoever is playing well and wants to play hard and compete out there is going to play."

Notes: Silas said Monday that he doesn't expect Henderson to return until after the All-Star break. Henderson had previously told reporters he hoped to return to action this week, but Silas said Henderson's strained hamstring is not quite ready.

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