Mitnick Column: Malcolm Thomas Journey From Tel-Aviv to the Bay Area

From nba.com/warriors

From nba.com/warriors

After spending half of a season in Israel with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Malcolm Thomas managed to turn a one game stint in the D-League into a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors.

After scoring 13 points and 17 rebounds in his only appearance for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Thomas was able to convince the Warriors brass he was worth a closer look.

I have been watching his career take a dip this season in Israel, and I can tell you Thomas is a very athletic big man with a high motor.

He plays at a high energy level, and is very active with his hands and fighting for position for rebounds. Offensively, he does most of his damage within 5 feet of the basket, since he doesn’t really possess any type of touch from outside. While he does have one or two solid post moves, he is not the strongest player fundamentally, and if you crowd the paint when he has the ball, he is likely either to take a poor shot or to make a turnover since he is basically a non-passer.

However, he runs the floor exceptionally well in transition defense, and his activeness allows him to “make two plays” which should help him be viewed favorably in the eyes of Coach Mark Jackson. He may be a bit skinny for the center position, and he possibly isn’t versatile enough to be a full-time power forward, but in a bench role, his activeness should be a welcome addition.

While he may be getting an NBA shot now, things didn’t seem so optimistic for Thomas one month ago. After two months of being a virtual non-factor for Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Thomas and Maccabi Tel-Aviv decided to part ways. While Thomas may have made the “All-NBDL First Team” last season, and had a brief stint with San Antonio, he did not seem prepared for the challenges he faced while he was with Maccabi.

When Thomas signed with Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the summer, several European basketball insiders were a bit perplexed that one of the powerhouse teams in Europe would sign a second-year pro without any European experience at all, even with a Eurocup or lower level Euroleague team. What many players and agents fail to realize is that the style in Europe, both on and off the court, is a large adjustment even for an NBA-level player. With few exceptions, players typically need at least one or two years of European experience to be able to understand what it will take to make an impact at the highest levels of Europe.

Thomas had a solid start to the season with Maccabi, even notching a double-double in an important home win against Bobby Brown’s tough Siena squad. With the exception of a 5 minute, 0-point outing against Maccabi Rishon (my squad), in one of Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s two domestic losses this season, Thomas played all right the first two months of the year. However, on a team like Maccabi Tel-Aviv, the entire roster will be made up of players who can contribute on any given night, meaning that a lack of ego is required, and you need to be willing to do whatever the coach asks of you.

While reports of what happened on the inside were not released, it is understood that Thomas’s exit from Maccabi was due to issues stemming from his frustration with his role on the team.

Since Maccabi Tel-Aviv can only register 6 of its 7 foreigners for each game, there were a couple games where Thomas either was not registered for Israeli league competition, or was barely used. In addition, in the Euroleague, he began to play only short stretches, rarely seeing more than 3 or 4 minutes at a time. While this can be understandably frustrating for a player, on a Euroleague team, you are expected to suck it up and do what is best for the team.

One of Malcolm’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv teammates was in the same situation last year.

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