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
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 NBA.com 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
"(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
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?
"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
Q -- Tyrus, can
you talk about how the trade developed and when you first heard about
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
Q -- What type of
things were you and LaMarcus talking about in the back
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
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
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