Interview with Billy Thomas of the Cleveland Cavaliers

Interview with Billy Thomas of the Cleveland Cavaliers
Feb 23, 2008, 11:22 pm

After going undrafted out of Kansas in 1998, Billy Thomas bounced around Europe and the minor leagues before being signed to two ten-day contracts by the New Jersey Nets and then eventually for the remained of the ’04-’05 season. He spent some more time in the minor leagues and eventually got another call-up by the Washington Wizards. Earlier this season, while playing for the Colorado 14ers of the NBA Development League, Thomas was averaging just under 16 points a game when he was called-up again by the Nets before being released and returning to the 14ers. Yesterday, a week after playing the D-League All-Star game, the Cleveland Cavaliers gave him a call-up along with teammate Kaniel Dickens. I spoke with Billy just after that All-Star game about his journey around the minor leagues and his time in Europe.

Richard Walker: You were born in Shreveport [Louisiana], so is this like a homecoming of sorts?

Billy Thomas: It’s always good to be back. Even if it’s not your own town it’s your own state.

Richard Walker: Congrats on being an All-Star. How do you feel about this whole thing?

Billy Thomas: Very privileged. Knowing how fortunate I am to still be playing basketball, and playing basketball for a living, and to still be considered one of the best players in the league.

Richard Walker: You’ve played in quite a few minor leagues – USBL, IBL – how does this one compare to those other leagues?

Billy Thomas: Because it’s tied directly to the NBA it’s the ultimate, if you will, in minor league basketball. It gives you great exposure. I’ve been called up a couple of times and it gives you the confidence to know you’re one step away.

Richard Walker: You just touched on it, but you have a history with the [New Jersey] Nets that allowed you to get called up earlier this season. How did that work?

Billy Thomas: It’s being prepared when you’re number is called, and that’s what being a professional is about whether you’re here or up there. I was just fortunate enough to be ready and to get another opportunity to be in the NBA.

Richard Walker: You’ve been called up by both the [Washington] Wizards and the Nets. That pretty much puts you on the fast track to another one. Have you been hearing anything about if that’s a realistic scenario?

Billy Thomas: It is. It’s a realistic scenario for anybody who played in this game today. For me individually it’s just about: keep working, keep doing the things I do, keep doing the things I’ve been blessed to do. You never know, man, but that’s the reason we play. That one day waking up where a team needs your services.

Richard Walker: It seems like you have a pretty good idea of what it takes, but is there something specific you’re working on?

Billy Thomas: Everything that incorporates being a basketball player at my position. You’ve got to defend, you’ve got be able to make shots, you’ve got to show that you know how to play basketball. Your basketball IQ is important, and that’s what I try to pass on to some of the other guys; that it’s not all about trying to come out and score 20 points every night, it’s about showing you know how to play.

Richard Walker: Do you mind if I ask you what happened in Europe [with Crvena Zvezda]?

Billy Thomas: It was just a situation where I wasn’t happy with the European club so I decided not to go back. They weren’t paying me on time, and all sorts of things like that, so I left.

Richard Walker: Right, that can happen with some of those European clubs.

Billy Thomas: Yeah, so what they wanted to do was get back at me, and so they kind of railroaded me. It’s a Serbian team and it’s mostly Serbians running the FIBA organization and it was a situation where they said I couldn’t play this season. I’ll try again next season. If the NBA doesn’t work out then I’ll be there.

Richard Walker: So it’s only for this season [that you’re ineligible to play]?

Billy Thomas: Yeah, it’s through April of this season.

Richard Walker: Nice. Are you hearing any rumors backstage about people getting called up?

Billy Thomas: Not sure man, but if there was I wish that rumor was about me!

Richard Walker: I wish it was about you too!

Billy Thomas: I appreciate it.

Richard Walker: Thanks a lot.

Billy Thomas: No problem.

Richard Walker: Take care.

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