On the first day of NBA Free Agency, Lance Thomas was at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City helping the youth get better at his NYC Basketball League Camp. He was teaching kids the fundamentals of the game, giving them tips, and cheering them on with every made basket. During all of this he was fielding calls from his agent, exemplifying how business can get in the way of basketball.
Officially an unrestricted free agent after the New York Knicks didn’t extend a qualifying offer, Lance Thomas can sign with any team. When I asked about what he’s looking for in potential suitors he answered, “I want to be somewhere where I can develop, grow, and contribute while also having a chance to win.”
Thomas was a pivotal part of New York’s 22-22 start last season as the team looked primed for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In the span of the first 44 games, Lance averaged 8.7 points per game on 46% shooting from the field and 41.5% shooting from 3-point range while playing stellar defense. For the rest of the season, he only played in 16 games and, in those games, his numbers dipped to 6.8 PPG on 38% shooting from the field and a 37% success rate from 3. By no coincidence, the Knicks’ record took a hit, finishing with only 10 wins in the final 38 games.
Knee injuries are common in The Association but also dangerous. Regarding his knee and overall health Lance told me, “I’m healthy right now and ready to get after it. I missed a lot of games last season towards the end so I’m ready to go.”
The former Duke Blue Devil hasn’t been healthy since football season ended, but don’t ask him when that was. Thomas said he “absolutely” watched cartoons instead of the Super Bowl and that his favorite cartoon of all-time is Tom & Jerry (great choice).
With the reports of the Knicks signing Joakim Noah for $18 million a season, the team projects to have at least $12 million in space remaining. New York is still in need of a backup point guard, starting and backup shooting guards, and some bench bigs.
For what it’s worth, Lance was wearing sweatpants with a Knicks logo embedded on it and kept referring to the team from Manhattan as “we.” He’s meeting with an unnamed team today but hopes to remain with the team that he was traded to in the JR Smith-Iman Shumpert trade.
For the full transcript of my conversation with Lance Thomas, see below:
Steven Tsakanikas: Being born in Brooklyn, you’re a New York guy and know how much basketball means to the youth. What did it mean to you specifically growing up?
Lance Thomas: It was just fun. I loved to compete, I loved to play the game. I was a Knicks fan, and took that seriously growing up. Basketball was never life for me like it is for these kids nowadays. I just took it seriously when I played it because I loved to compete and win. To be here with these kids and watching them compete, work hard, and get after it, it reminds me of myself a long time ago.
ST: If there’s one piece of advice you’d give young basketball players who want to make it to the NBA like you, what would it be?
LT: Work as hard as you can and pay attention to detail.
ST: The knee injury prevented you from playing in more games than you would have liked this past season, how does your knee and body feel?
LT: I’m healthy right now and ready to get after it. I’m a free agent at the moment and looking forward to landing in a spot where I can call home and play. I missed a lot of games last season towards the end so I’m ready to go.
ST: Being a free agent and with free agency officially underway, what are your priorities when looking at potential suitors?
LT: I want to be somewhere where I can develop, grow, and contribute while also having a chance to win.
ST: Is it true you watched Cartoon Network over the Super Bowl last year?
LT: Absolutely, absolutely.
ST: What’s your all-time favorite cartoon?
LT: Tom and Jerry.
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