Media reports in recent days had indicated that Thomas preferred to resign with the Bobcats (nothing wrong with drinking the Larry Brown kool-aid) and the Cats had been pretty transparent in their desire to keep Thomas.
Beyond the fact that they had given up Flip Murray and a future first round pick to obtain Thomas at the trading deadline (meaning that he would have been a very expensive rental), Thomas is young, upside player on a squad where “young” and “upside” are in short supply. He played quite well for the Cats down the stretch. He’s a long, athletic, “Larry-Brown-type-of-guy”; accordingly, Brown has specifically mentioned that he is looking forward to helping Thomas continue to develop.
However, the fear that another team with ample cap space could swoop in with a deal that Thomas couldn’t refuse was well-founded. The Knicks, Nets and Clippers had plenty of room after striking out on the Lebacle. Of particular concern was the possibility that someone could offer a “poison-pill” front-loaded contract that the Bobcats wouldn’t be able to match without going over the luxury tax line for 2010-11.
You have to read between the lines to figure out exactly how it went down (so this is speculation) but from the sounds of it, the Bobcats had a reasonable dollar amount and contract structure in mind. Most importantly, Thomas wanted to stay; however, he needed to make sure no team was going to throw silly money at him.
The New Jersey Nets (in a great show of confidence in their lottery pick PF Derrick Favors) were apparently the most interested other team, and they did indeed offer Thomas a front-loaded contract that would have been difficult for the Cats to match outright. However, the general range of the Nets offer must have assured Thomas that the Bobcats’ proposed numbers were in line with his market value, so he’s signing with the Cats.
Again, that’s speculation. Maybe he considered the New Jersey offer more seriously? Maybe the Cats had to re-raise with a better offer after hearing New Jersey’s? Either way, the Cats have accomplished an important goal for the offseason in keeping him.
What remains to be seen is what else the Cats can do to remix and upgrade the roster. Tyson Chandler’s big expiring contract is a strong contender to be moved. The Cats would likely be looking to shore up the PG spot, while lowering their overall payroll. Easier said than done…