It's around 7500 miles from Tel Aviv, Israel to Oakland, California but that journey probably feels longer for Malcolm Thomas after everything he's experienced since signing overseas last October. One game in the D-League and a 10-day contract later, Thomas is the newest member of the Golden State Warriors. But how did Thomas really get there?
When you picture Malcolm Thomas' five months playing in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, this is the image most often conjured up of the 6-foot-9 forward out of San Diego State -- sending it in coming off the pick and roll, nothing but arms for days.
He put Montepaschi Siena on a poster that day. Now, Thomas has to be amped and hopeful he'll get the chance to soar in the NBA after the Golden State Warriors signed him to a 10-day contract following one game with the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
One game: 13 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and one block in 41 minutes.
Knowing what Thomas did in Tel Aviv, that lone game for the D-Fenders certainly overshadows his most recent stint playing internationally.
When Thomas signed with Maccabi last October, the deal was proceeded by an impressive D-League run that included Thomas earning both All-NBA D-League First team and All-NBA D-League Defensive First Team honors last season while he played for both the Austin Toros and Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Thomas parlayed those accomplishments into three games with the San Antonio Spurs last season (15 total minutes played) and pushed for a guaranteed deal after solid workouts with the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls.
But the only real guarantee Thomas received was from Maccabi Tel Aviv when he inked a multi-year deal, and was on his way to Israel.
He quickly made an impact and gave Shelden Williams (Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone) a run for his money as the two battled for the rebounding lead in the Euroleague two weeks into the season. In his first two games, Thomas averaged 9 points and 9.5 rebounds in 22 minutes, including 14 points and 11 rebounds (6 offensive) against Montepaschi Siena.
At least right then it appeared the younger Thomas was settling in for a promising season overseas -- his second go-around after averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks per game playing for Mobis Phoebus of South Korea last season during the NBA lockout. Those numbers are more in-line with Thomas' one game with the D-Fenders, showing once again the athleticism and overall ability is there and leaves an impression.
"I thought he was the best big guy in the summer league in Vegas," said Warriors head coach Mark Jackson. "Played extremely well and we get an opportunity to take a close look at him see what we have, but he's a guy that we like."
So the question is, what happened to rush his departure with Maccabi Tel-Aviv?
Head Coach David Blatt does posses a track record of providing more playing time to veterans and guys familiar with his system, compared to new additions and younger players still learning their way (see the Jon Scheyer era). But by breaking down the playing time for Thomas (between 15 and 18 minutes per game), the opportunity was there for the taking. Here's what Thomas took: In 15 Euroleague games with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Thomas averaged 4.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and shot 48%, while putting up 6.8 points and grabbing 5 rebounds per game in 13 Israeli League games this season.
In February, Thomas was waived by Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Multiple reports indicated Thomas wanted out of his contract due to a lack of playing time, but the club denied that request. Yet once Blatt decreased Thomas' playing time the two sides finally agreed to go their own way. For Thomas, that "way" meant heading back to the D-League and then on to a 10-day contract with the Warriors.
Such is life some times between the international game and the NBA.
It all worked out in the end for Malcolm Thomas.