SI Vault
Marty Burns
October 28, 2002
With Glenn Robinson gone, Tim Thomas has a chance to prove that he's worth his big contract—and that he can fetch more wins than Big Dog
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October 28, 2002

6 Milwaukee Bucks

With Glenn Robinson gone, Tim Thomas has a chance to prove that he's worth his big contract—and that he can fetch more wins than Big Dog

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2001-02 record: 41-41 (fifth in Central)
Points scored: 97.5 (8th)
Points allowed: 97.7 (22nd)
Coach: George Karl (fifth season with Bucks)



2001-02 KEY STATS


Tim Thomas


11.7 ppg

4.1 rpg

1.4 apg

42.0 FG%

32.6 3FG%


Anthony Mason


9.6 ppg

7.9 rpg

4.2 apg

0.70 spg

50.5 FG%


Ervin Johnson


2.6 ppg

5.8 rpg

1.01 bpg

46.1 FG%

45.5 FT%


Ray Allen


21.8 ppg

4.5 rpg

3.9 apg

46.2 FG%

43.4 3FG%


Sam Cassell


19.7 ppg

4.2 rpg

6.7 apg

1.22 spg

46.3 FG%



2001-02 KEY STATS


Michael Redd


11.4 ppg

3.3 rpg

1.4 apg

48.3 FG%

44.4 3FG%


Toni Kukoc#


9.9 ppg

3.7 rpg

3.6 apg

41.9 FG%

31.0 3FG%


Jason Caffey


4.3 ppg

2.2 rpg

0.5 apg

0.22 bpg

50.0 FG%


Marcus Haislip (R)#


16.7 ppg

6.7 rpg

1.0 apg

1.76 bpg

51.8 FG%


Dan Gadzuric (R)#


11.7 ppg

7.7 rpg

0.7 apg

1.27 bpg

55.4 FG%

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

Tim Thomas was picking up his nephew at a Philadelphia hotel in August when he ran into 76ers star Allen Iverson. "I hear you guys are about to make a trade," Iverson said, referring to rumors of a deal involving Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson. Moments later Thomas's cellphone rang. It was Bucks general manager Ernie Grunfeld, saying that he had indeed shipped Robinson to the Hawks for forward Toni Kukoc, forward Leon Smith and a 2003 first-round pick. The 6'10" Thomas was now Milwaukee's starting small forward. "I wanted the season to start the very next day," he says.

If Thomas, 25, can successfully replace the Big Dog, the bite could be back in the Bucks. Last year they were supposed to contend for the title, but nagging injuries to the backcourt of Ray Allen and Sam Cassell, along with poor team chemistry, cost them down the stretch. Milwaukee suffered an epic swoon, losing 14 of its final 19 games to become the first team in NBA history to fail to make the playoffs despite leading its division after the ides of March.

In need of a shakeup, the Bucks subtracted one of their Big Three. Though they will miss Robinson's consistent scoring, they feel Thomas's ball handling and willingness to share the rock will make them better. "Tim can do a lot more things," Allen says. "If he doesn't score 20 but gets us two or three steals a game, that's just as big." Thomas's quickness and immense wingspan alone should improve a defense that ranked 22nd last season. The trick for Thomas will be to maintain focus at both ends. Last season, his second after signing a six-year, $67 million deal, he averaged a respectable 11.7 points and 4.1 rebounds but shot only 42.0% and put up far more three-pointers (291) than free throw attempts (179). He also had too many lapses on D. "When Glenn was in the game, Tim had a tendency to kind of disappear or fade into the shadows," Allen says. "As big as he is, and as talented as he is, we can't have that."

Over the summer, Thomas says, he rose nearly every morning at six to lift weights in his basement, then went to the track at Villanova, where he ran 100-yard wind sprints with a football tucked under his arm. He also spent a week in Atlanta working one-on-one with four-time All-Star Bernard King, a former teammate of Grunfeld's who helped Thomas add some low-post moves to his already solid face-the-basket arsenal. "He taught me some tricks but mostly just helped me with footwork and positioning," Thomas says.

While the Bucks could sorely use more inside punch, they say that they don't need Thomas to match Robinson's 20.7 points per game. Coach George Karl says he'll take 16 points and eight rebounds as long as Thomas provides passing and consistent defense. "With Glenn, you'd get spectacular," Karl says, "but you'd also get disappointment sometimes." The Bucks are counting on Thomas to be solidly in between.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]