As expected, Hasheem Thabeet has agreed to join the Thunder.
It’s a two-year contract that is fully guaranteed and believed to be a minimal deal, or $880,000.
Think what you will of the decision by Thunder management. As I’ve laid out, it makes some sense. But whether it’s a good move, a bad move or something somewhere in between is really beside the point right now. Thabeet isn’t likely to play much at all next season. The most important thing for the Thunder, and Thabeet, is to now focus on development.
Clearly, there’s talent in Thabeet’s 7-foot-3 frame. He wasn’t the Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons, and the Co-Big East Player of the Year in his final season, at UConn for nothing.
But it’s time to tap into that talent. It’s time for Thabeet to get to work.
This will be Thabeet’s fourth team in four seasons after being drafted No. 2 overall in 2009. Only because he’s 7-3 are we certain that this, no matter what, will not be his final chance to prove he belongs in this league.
But the first thing Thabeet could and should do to show that this time, this team, will be different than his previous three seasons is take his tall tail down to Orlando and join his new teammates for summer league. Rising fourth-year players generally don’t participate in summer league. But if anyone needs to swallow their pride it’s Thabeet. If I’m Thabeet, I’m volunteering to go and compete next week instead of having the coaching staff or front office “encourage” me to. It’s an easy way to make a good first impression and prove that the past is in the past. Prove that now he’s willing to work hard and do what it takes to blossom into the player many believed he had the potential to become.
If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to play. And Lord knows Thabeet needs that.
In the past two seasons, Thabeet has played just 512 minutes. By comparison, Thunder guard Reggie Jackson logged 501 as a rookie this season. In splitting his time with Houston and Portland this year, Thabeet played just 139 minutes. Kevin Durant played 213 minutes against Miami in the Finals.
Court time is what Thabeet needs more than anything. If he can’t play, or he simply isn’t the player who projected to be a dominant low-post defender, then so be it. But there is only one way to find out.
Thabeet needs to take that first step. He needs to show up in Orlando.
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