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Tim Thomas: "Karl? I don't even want to hear that name"
by Gery Woelfel / January 27, 2004

You and your teammates have had some nice victories this season, beating Indiana, beating Detroit, beating New Jersey, but beating the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs Monday night had to be the nicest one of all. You had a team-high 22 points and eight rebounds and were the difference-maker in the outcome. Certainly, it wasn't just another victory.

Tim Thomas: No, it wasn't. That was a big statement game for us. We haven't been getting any credit all year. Right now, I don't really want none, either. I hope teams continue to say, 'Hey, we got Milwaukee and come out and play relaxed.' I hope every team keeps having that attitude about us.

By beating San Antonio, you improved your home court record at the Bradley Center to 18-5. That's the most home victories in the Eastern Conference. How important is it for the Bucks to maintain their winning ways at home?

TT: It's very important. Our long-term goal is to get into the playoffs, and we know that on the road it can be a struggle. In order for us to get into the playoffs, we definitely have to win at home.

It seems this has been your best season as a pro. You're averaging a career-high 15 points and career-high five rebounds a game. How would you assess your play this season?

TT: It doesn't matter. We're winning. A lot of people can say they're playing great, but when you're playing great and not winning, you're not going to be a happy camper. My whole thing is about winning. I'm not the type of guy who gets involved in stats. My concern is winning basketball games each and every night.

How has your role with this team changed now that you have a new coach in Terry Porter?

TT: It's different. These guys look to me to lead them in different situations out there on the basketball court. And that's a good thing. At the same time, I just go out and play basketball. I'm not concerned about getting 25 shots or 30 shots a night. I'm concerned about what I have to do defensively first and then worry about what I do on the offensive end. As long as we're winning, I'm all right.

You're 26 years old and, theoretically at least, just entering the prime of your career. Do you feel like you're ready to take off, that you are entering the prime of your career?

TT: It doesn't matter. You have your up and down years. In sports, you can't say, 'I'm going to do this this year, and do this the next year.' You never know what can happen. You just got to take each year as it comes.

The Bucks made radical changes after last season. The team has a new general manager in Larry Harris, a new coach in Porter and several new players. What do you thing was the best change made?

TT: We got all the negativity out of here. That's just the bottom line, if you ask me. We got guys here now who are just concerned about winning, concerned about each other on the basketball court. And that's all you can ask for. When you have a lot of negativity around you, all it does is bring on more negativity. Now we have a great group of guys that want to win and have fun.

So was all that negativity you mentioned the major reason for the Bucks' underachieving ways the last two seasons?

TT: That had a lot to do with it. And a lot had to do with guys being selfish. We had a lot of guys who were very selfish. We had all the talent in the world. There was no reason why we shouldn't have won the East the last couple years. But when you're selfish and only concerned about yourself, that's what happens.

Things did indeed get pretty ugly with this team last year. There was a lot of finger-pointing and internal dissension. Being the team player that you are, did you ever wish you would have been traded and set free of the insanity surrounding the team?

TT: Think about it: It was ugly and we still got to the playoffs. And getting to the playoffs was good. But guys were still being assholes.

What's the biggest difference between Porter and his predecessor, George Karl?

TT: No comment. ... I don't even want to hear that name.

Your refusal to talk about Karl speaks volumes.

TT: I don't want to talk about that.

OK, so what about this current team. You've already fooled a lot of basketball observers who predicted doom and gloom for this team and said it would be lucky if it won 25 games this season. You've already matched that total. How good can this team be?

TT: There's still a lot of basketball to be played. The sky's the limit for us. The things we're doing together right now are just great. We're playing together, we're playing defense and we're concerned about winning basketball games. It's a great situation.

Based on your comments, it seems like you have never been on a more tight-knit team than this one?

TT: Yeah, definitely. It's real legit. In the past, guys were saying, 'Hey, we're cool and all that stuff.' But I think it was phoney. This year, like I said, it's legit. It's a great place to come to work every day.

Professional athletes are frequently subjected to trade rumors and you aren't any different. Your name always seems to pops up in trade speculation. How do you deal with all the gossip?

TT: I don't. In this business, you never know. I'm talking to you right now and tomorrow I could be gone. The main concern is about you and your family. That's it. This business is like monopoly. If Sen. Kohl (the Bucks owner) thinks someone else is better than me, that person will be sitting here and I'll be gone. That's just the way it goes. Guys have to understand that. I understand that. There's nothing harsh about it. It's just business. It's not like you're out of the league and it's not like you're out of a job.

It's not like they're putting us in a situation where we're going to war. Just think about our troops in Iraq. Our situation is no way close to that one. We're just going from one place to another place to play basketball.

Over the last couple of years, it wasn't unusual to see you wearing some throwback jersey. How many throwback jerseys do you have, and what are your favorite ones?

TT: I probably have about 30 of them. My favorites would be Jerry Rice's college jersey (from Mississippi
Valley State), a Raiders' jersey of Howie Long, who is a 'Nova guy (Thomas also attended Villanova for one
year) and I just got Walter Payton's jersey.

When you were traded by the Philadelphia 76ers to the Bucks almost five years ago, you told me your one and only goal was to win a championship. Is that still the case today?

TT: It still is. Go ask Barkley. He's played in All-Star games. He's played in the Olympics. Some of his closest friends are Hall of Famers and, when they put their hand up, they got a ring on their finger. I want a ring on my finger.

One of your closest friends, Tracy McGrady of the Orlando Magic, is a potential Hall of Fame player. Yet, he hasn't come close to winning a title and it doesn't appear he'll win one anytime soon with the Magic, either. How is he coping with this?

TT: He's upset. I mean, he's upset. He doesn't want to see a season start or end this way. Who does? That's
why I wouldn't want to be in Tracy's shoes. He's going to go to the All-Star Game and have fun during All-Star Weekend and then come back and play the rest of the regular season and then go home and watch me on TV in the playoffs. So, who wouldn't want to be in a situation where you're winning? That's what it's all about.

Gery Woelfel covers the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA for The Racine (Wis.) Journal Times

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