On a roster dominated by players in their early 20's, Etan Thomas can contribute more than blocks, rebounds and interior defense. Leadership. Having played in 373 games over seven seasons, including three playoff appearances, Thomas can pass along tips how to battle players like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. “I was (recently) talking to Kevin Ollie and Nick (Collison) that this group is young and talented but they're great guys,” Thomas said. “This is an easy group to teach. Coach (Scott Brooks) is doing a great job. You just try to reinforce what he's teaching. “This is a special group where everybody works hard. They listen. They come early. They stay late. You really don't see that on many teams top to bottom.” Thomas, 31, said one of his roles will be to offer advice to young big men like Serge Ibaka, Byron Mullens and D.J. White. Ollie will work with the guards. “You can lead by example or be a talker,” Thomas said. “I do a little bit of both. I'm more of a guy who might pull someone to the side and talk to them one-on-one. That's my method. A lot of times they learn just by watching.” When healthy, Thomas can provide inside muscle the Thunder lacked last season. “I like the fact he's been in the league a while and has been in playoff games,” Brooks said. “He understands the importance of doing your job the right way. He'll bring toughness and interior defense. Because of what he's been through he's just enjoying playing.” Young stars aren't the only ones hungry to prove something. Thomas is hungry to prove he can still impact games, having played in only 26 games the past two seasons. Thomas missed the 2007-08 season following heart surgery. Last season he was sidelined the final three months with a knee injury. “I can't wait,” Thomas said. “Being from Tulsa, this is a great situation for me. This is a great team, a great organization, a great city. It's truly a blessing to be on this team. I'm thankful and want to make the most of it.”
Ready: Thomas provides what the Thunder needs most — interior defense, blocked shots and rebounds. The former two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year has averaged 1.1 blocks and 5.0 rebounds during seven NBA seasons. A published poet, having written “More Than an Athlete,” Thomas also can provide invaluable experience for a young team. ... or not: 26. That's the number of games Etan Thomas has played the past two seasons. The 31-year-old Tulsa Washington product could give the Thunder 15 to 20 minutes a game of interior defense but must prove he can stay healthy. Thomas has played in 50 or more games only twice the past five seasons — 71 games in 2005-06 followed by 65 games in 2006-07 with the Wizards.