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There is no doubting Thomas will fill a void

T.J. SIMERS

February 21, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

I remember the good old Page 2 days when you could go into almost any locker room here and run into a puffed-up dunderhead spouting nonsense. I envy those guys who got to talk to Barry Bonds on Tuesday.

Looking back, those were the days, all right, with Kevin Brown and Jose Guillen, and most recently there was Kenny Lofton, but as the years have gone by and the local public relations directors have made a point of preparing their players for Page 2, it's become hugs all around.

I get the feeling Jeff Kent is waiting now for a Thanksgiving invite, like we've got room for Garret Anderson's family and Kent's brood at our table. Kent wanted me to go riding with him last summer, and Brad Penny wanted me to join him on his farm. Kevin Malone invited me to go golfing, and the last time I was with Frank's Old Lady, she wouldn't stop touching my arm.

I would imagine Phil and Jeanie will want me at the wedding.

It's getting harder and harder, though, to identify the pros who take themselves so seriously. I've actually had to stage Page 2 sneak attacks on out-of-towners such as Frank Robinson, the Watch Girl, Brad Faxon and Tony Stewart, who never got an advanced Page 2 warning -- just so I could get by.

So you can imagine my delight when I learned the Clippers still have an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned puffed-up dunderhead spouting nonsense in their locker room. A dinosaur, if you will, but so taken with himself that he ignored the team's public relations briefing on how to deal with Page 2.

A few weeks ago I told Clippers' disappointment, Tim Thomas, that I was wrestling with the question: "Who has been a bigger bust this season -- the Lakers' Vladimir Radmanovic or Thomas?"

Thomas guessed "Radmanovic," and I didn't disagree, but I wanted to know why Thomas was also so badly underachieving.

"I'm not," he said.

"The Clippers brought you in to be their long-ranger shooter, and you can't shoot straight." I didn't know it at the time, but that was a pretty clever comeback.

"I'm not a shooter," Thomas huffed. "I'm an all-around basketball player."

Then he walked away, while saying over his shoulder something about "negativity," and "I might as well be back in New York."

The way he's been playing, that's not a bad idea.

\o7THE NEXT\f7 time we got together, I said, "Hi," and it was too much for Thomas. He hustled out of the locker room, an indication he really is capable of hustling.

Thomas came to the Clippers with the reputation he's a dog at times -- failing to play all out. I even heard his nickname is "Dog," which seemed to be hitting a little close to him, so I asked him about it.

He said it was a nickname in high school, leaving open the possibility that he was dog going all the way back to his days as a pup.

I asked him if it's true -- that sometimes he doesn't go all out.

"Disagree," he said. "That's everybody's opinion, but people have their own opinions in this world and I can't sit here and debate it with everybody."

I know this, he wouldn't go all out to debate it with me.

I asked Coach Mike Dunleavy about Thomas' reputation for "dogging it," and he said, "People always say he plays good in the playoffs and big games and at times you're not sure what you get after that."

Yes, that's what they say, all right.

Take away two benchwarmers who hardly play, and Thomas is the worst shooter on a team that can't shoot very well. He's made 40.1% from the field and 68.6% from the free-throw line, which might indicate a lack of concentration, considering he is 76.3% from the line in his 10-year career.

This is the same guy who gunned down the Lakers and the Clippers in the playoffs. But that's also his rep -- playing all out at the two points in his career when he was about to get a new contract. He signed a four-year, $24-million deal with the Clippers, which means he'll probably give it his all toward the end of the 2010 season.

The Clippers, though, need everyone on board to make a playoff run right now. That's right now, but then Thomas was five for 16 on Tuesday night through three quarters of play against the Phoenix Suns, a team that doesn't play defense.

This from a guy that had Ray Allen saying in 2001, "Tim Thomas could be the best player in the league."

Thomas is playing for his seventh team, a guy with such a bad attitude Chicago was willing to pay him $14 million to stay home from last November to March to keep him from contaminating the other players. Then, the Bulls cut him.

"I think my career is fine," Thomas said. "I have a lot of basketball left in me."

That's what you'd expect from someone who has been saving himself, but I was wondering why he elected to run from Page 2 -- if he felt so good about his game.

"You make your living off stuff people want to believe, whether it's true or not," Thomas said. "I make my living winning basketball games."

I pointed out he's lost more games than he's won while playing for the Clippers, and I was standing in front of him to let him set the record straight.

"I don't want to deal with negativity," he said, and I suggested then he might want to put the basketball in the hoop more often. I'm just helpful like that.

I got chills. It was like the old days with Jason Phillips -- remember, that knucklehead who was struggling to make it on nearly $400,000?

"This is going to be the start of a wonderful relationship," I told Thomas.

"I'm married," Thomas said.

"Then we can double date," I suggested.

"No way," he said, and I'm happy to report there wasn't even a hint of humor in his response -- promising even more fun ahead.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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