CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When the Charlotte Bobcats invested $40 million in Tyrus Thomas in 2010 they envisioned him being a key building block in their foundation.
But the high-priced, seven-year NBA veteran has not lived up to expectations and barely sees the floor anymore.
He hasn't played in the team's last eight games, and has been declared inactive for the last six by first-year coach Mike Dunlap.
When Thomas has played he hasn't been particularly productive, shooting 32 percent from floor and averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
One of the reasons Thomas isn't playing is because Dunlap wants to get younger players like Bismack Biyombo more experience. But Dunlap said that a lack of consistent effort has also played into the decision to sit the 6-foot-10 power forward.
Dunlap said Thomas' effort has "been there at times, but other times it hasn't been where it needed to be."
"I think consistency is the word," Dunlap added. "It's pretty simple. The other thing is we have some fours in here that are pretty young and it's real obvious I've been doling out the minutes to those guys in that form. (But) the one thing that is not up for grabs is effort — consistent effort. You play to your strengths."
Perhaps a bigger problem for the Bobcats is what to do with Thomas, who is under contract for two years beyond this season — at a salary that makes it difficult to cut him.
He's due to make $8.69 million next season and $9.38 million in 2014-15.
His play dropped off dramatically last season, but the Bobcats banked on Thomas being able to regain the form he had in 2010-11 when he averaged 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Shortly after being hired as head coach last summer, Dunlap made a special trip to Thomas' hometown in Louisiana to talk about expectations heading into the season and seemed convinced he could fit into his style of play.
Thomas seemed rejuvenated by the conversation and the new opportunity after feuding with former coach Paul Silas last season, the result being an altercation in April in which Silas pushed Thomas into his chair in the locker room after a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Thomas put 20 pounds back on before the season — weight he'd lost from being hospitalized during the NBA lockout with ulcers — and things looked promising for a while.