Thomas taken fourth overall by Portland

NEW YORK, N. Y. -- LSU's Tyrus Thomas became the 12th player in school men's basketball history to be selected in the first round of the National Basketball Association draft here Wednesday night as the Portland Trailblazers made him the fourth pick of the evening at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

But in one of the stranger moments of the draft, the Baton Rouge Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year was on stage wearing a Portland cap talking with ESPN's Stuart Scott about going to the Chicago Bulls, the team that had the second pick and the team all-along expected to pick Thomas.


Apparently in the hours prior to the draft, a deal was reached between Portland and Chicago in which the Bulls picked LaMarcus Aldridge of Texas at No. 2 for Portland which then drafted Thomas at No. 4. The deal would secure Aldridge for Portland and keep No. 3 Charlotte from taking the player the Trailblazers really wanted.  


But that announcement, although made right before the Bulls selection on ESPN by Andy Katz based on league sources and taken as a done deal by the television crew, had not been made official at the podium by the NBA almost one hour after Thomas' selection by Portland. Portland's web site at that time announced the choice and that team officials "were involved in a conference call with league officials right now and we anticipate an announcement from the NBA as soon as that call is completed."


Finally almost 90 minutes after Thomas was selected by Portland, the announcement was made sending the rights to Aldridge and a second round selection to Portland with the rights to Thomas and the contract of Portland's Viktor Khryapa going to Chicago to make things go in a round about way as expected for weeks.


Thomas, who helped LSU to the 2006 NCAA Final Four in his redshirt freshman season, becomes the fifth player from LSU to be drafted in the top four at LSU, joining Bob Pettit in 1954 (2nd pick, Milwaukee); Pete Maravich in 1970 (3rd pick, Atlanta); Chris Jackson in 1990 (3rd pick, Denver); Shaquille O'Neal in 1992 (1st pick, Orlando) and Stromile Swift in 2000 (2nd pick, Vancouver).


LSU Coach John Brady has felt all along in the draft process that Chicago would be a good place for Thomas to land. "(Chicago Coach) Scott Skiles will challenge him and get on him and they'll win," said Brady, the 2006 SEC Coach of the Year. "He's coming off one of the closest-knit college basketball teams in the country. I told (Chicago GM John) Paxson and (Player Personnel Director) Gar Forman not to worry about Tyrus on the floor. He's a heck of a talent. The only problem at 19 or 20 is, is he emotionally mature enough to handle the NBA life?"


"It's just a blessing to be here. I'm in a great situation right now. I'm looking forward to being in Chicago and getting ready to work," Thomas said moments after the selection was made and he had the obligatory photo opportunity with Commissioner David Stern.


LSU women's star Seimone Augustus, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 WNBA draft gave the hopeful NBA star some pointers of draft night. "Just relax, enjoy the moment, go with the flow and make sure I look nice," said Thomas of his conversation with his friend whom he said prior to the draft would be one of the first people outside his family that he calls on his cell phone. In fact, according to draft bloggers at The Theatre, after his interview with ESPN, Thomas was being led out to other draft obligations, high-fiving the fans and talking excitedly on his cell phone.


"(The Bulls) are young, they like to run. Coach Skiles when I visited with him is a great teacher and a motivator. Just the organization as a whole has a bright future so I'm looking forward to doing some good things in Chicago," Thomas said.


Italy's 7-foot Andrea Bargnani was the number one pick of the draft by Toronto with Adam Morrison of Gonzaga going to Charlotte with the third pick sandwiched in between the Aldridge and Thomas picks. Through the first 23 picks of the draft, there had been four players from the SEC picked, an improvement from last year when only one SEC player was selected in the 2005 first round.


The following are quotes From Tyrus Thomas (after the trade was announced, finally wearing a Bulls cap) in the NBA pressroom backstage at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden:


Q -- It's been a long evening for you waiting to get up here. Were you guys sitting backstage waiting to switch hats?


Thomas -- "LaMarcus and I were backstage waiting for the trade to be finalized and we couldn't move until the trade was finalized so that was about an hour of agony. We knew where we were going but we couldn't do anything until the trade got finalized.



Q -- Tyrus, can you talk about how the trade developed and when you first heard about it.


Thomas -- "I knew about the trade before the draft even began. I guess it was just a situation where Chicago wanted to get more assets and Portland wanted to secure LaMarcus from Charlotte. We both knew about the trade so it wasn't a shock and I had a heads up on it."



Q -- What type of things were you and LaMarcus talking about in the back room?


Thomas -- "We were just clowning. We were relaxing. We knew where we were going. We were just happy to be here and how blessed we were to be in this situation and we are just anxious to get ready and started on a new career."



Q -- How do you feel about fitting in Chicago and the pieces that they have there?


Thomas -- "I am just excited about the whole situation. I talked to (Coach Scott) Skiles and (GM John) Paxson while I was in the back. They know I'm ready to work and they are ready to push me to the limit to help develop me into a better player. I'm just excited about the prospects and ready to go to work."



Q -- You've been loose since you've arrived in New York. How have you stayed so calm through all of this?


Thomas -- "You've got to understand the situation. Once I got here, well actually before then, once my workouts were over, there wasn't much that I could control. I wasn't going to put myself under any pressure. I was just going to relax and have a good time."

Tiger Blitz Top Stories