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News » Looks like Thomas stays Bucks forward will be a starter

Looks like Thomas stays Bucks forward will be a starter

Looks like Thomas stays  Bucks forward will be a starter By CHARLES F. GARDNER

Veteran power forward Kurt Thomas had little idea whether he would fit into the Milwaukee Bucks' plans when he was traded by San Antonio on June 23 as part of the Richard Jefferson deal.

The Bucks were dumping Jefferson's big contract, and they did not keep the other two players they acquired in the three-team swap. Forward Bruce Bowen was released, and forward Amir Johnson was sent to Toronto in an August trade.

But less than two weeks before the regular-season opener the 37-year-old Thomas is staking his claim to a spot in the starting lineup.

Thomas started his fourth straight game as the Bucks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 101-87, Saturday night at the Bradley Center. He played 20 minutes and contributed six points and six rebounds while dividing his time between power forward and center.

It's an important role, giving the Bucks a physical presence next to starting center Andrew Bogut at the outset of a game and allowing 27-year-old Hakim Warrick to make a splash off the bench at the power forward spot.

"I really didn't know what to expect," the 6-foot-9 Thomas said after the trade was made. "I just wanted to wait until I talked to the Bucks .

"They were real upbeat about things and wanted me to come in and contribute. It has been a great adjustment."

The tricky part for Thomas is playing both power positions, although he said it doesn't require a radical change in his approach within games.

"I just want to play, and I'm enjoying playing with these young guys," Thomas said.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he believes Thomas can handle the dual role.

"I'm going to have to find some sort of balance in there for him," Skiles said. "It's tough to do when you're playing him both spots. It probably means at some point you've got to leave him out for a long stretch. We'll figure it out as time goes on."

Skiles also wants to be careful not to overwork the 15-year pro, who played in 79 games with San Antonio last season and averaged 17.8 minutes. During the previous year, spent with Seattle and the Spurs, he played in 70 games and averaged 22.6 minutes.

"I want to be smart as far as Kurt goes," Skiles said. "If we get down to the last two or three weeks of the season and we're playing in meaningful games, he's going to be a guy we'll rely on to get stops and rebound the ball.

"In talking to Kurt, he wants to play. I've been in this situation before. Antonio Davis played a big role for me in Chicago; P.J. Brown did. I like him in the starting lineup, but I also want to be mindful of how many minutes he's playing."

Warrick and Ersan Ilyasova will be able to contribute heavily at power forward, allowing Thomas to slide over to the center position to spell Bogut. Skiles also has used Dan Gadzuric for some backup minutes at center.

"A lot of it kind of filters down from Bogues (Bogut)," Skiles said. "If I want to start Kurt with Bogues, and then Hak (Warrick) is the first logical guy to bring in and I may use Danny, then it seems there aren't many minutes there for Ersan.

"But I think other nights there will be plenty for him. He's a better player than he was when he was here before. He spaces the floor with his shooting, and he's not afraid to mix it up. It may be a challenge certain times getting him enough minutes, but maybe it won't."

The Bucks have two preseason games remaining, at Charlotte on Tuesday and against Detroit Friday at the Bradley Center. Those will be the final tune-up chances before the regular-season opener at Philadelphia on Oct. 30.

"We'll have time to look at how everyone played and make some decisions in that time," Skiles said of the week between the end of preseason and opening night. "I think it will be good for us."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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Added: October 20, 2009


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