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Thursday, April 17
Thomas will wait to vent on rift with Karl

Associated Press

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- Tim Thomas is still upset over losing his starting job three weeks ago but he won't criticize Bucks coach George Karl -- at least not during the playoffs.

"Right now for the sake of my teammates and what we're trying to accomplish, I will leave it alone,'' Thomas said Thursday. "Right now we're trying to accomplish something.''

Thomas has been in Karl's doghouse ever since he refused to re-enter a game at Denver on March 26. He was fined and replaced in the Milwaukee Bucks' starting lineup by rookie Marcus Haislip.

He returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night and scored 21 points in the Bucks' 93-87 victory over Orlando that ensured them a seventh seed and a first-round playoff series against New Jersey.

Karl refused, however, to say Thomas had won back his starting job for the postseason.

"There are a lot of ways to go,'' Karl said.

Thomas spoke to reporters Thursday after practice for the first time since his refusal to re-enter the Bucks' 108-103 loss at Denver last month and said he hasn't accepted his demotion.

He also said he'll be glad to divulge details eventually of his strained relationship with Karl.

"I will talk more about that later,'' Thomas said. "Right now I feel as though is not the right time. When the season's over with, come back. I'll be happy to give you everything you want.''

Thomas used to have a fantastic relationship with Karl, whose hair he would muss after every victory. It was Karl, after all, who persuaded owner Herb Kohl to shell out $67 million in 2000 to Thomas, who didn't even start until the club jettisoned Glenn Robinson before this season.

Thomas said it wasn't easy setting aside the rift, but "it's basketball time. It's winning time.''

"It's very tough. But like I said, I'm just holding back for the sake of my teammates and what we're trying to accomplish out there and just letting it bypass,'' he said.

So, the Bucks are an outwardly happy bunch these days in stark contrast to a year ago, when a month-long plunge dropped them from first place in the Central Division to playoff spectator.

Now, the Bucks are the hottest team in the league, having won eight of their last nine although the team is still in transition following the Feb. 20 trade of Ray Allen that brought Payton and Desmond Mason over from Seattle.

The last time the Bucks made the playoffs, their starting lineup consisted of Robinson, Allen, Scott Williams, Ervin Johnson and Sam Cassell.

With the first three gone and Johnson a bit player now, only Cassell remains -- but he's moved over to shooting guard to make room for Payton at the point.

Payton is the only player Karl has named as a starter. But the coach said he's not concerned about his lack of a set rotation.

"There's unknowns every time you play playoff basketball,'' Karl said. "The one thing about this team is we're not an experienced playoff team together. We're an experienced playoff team individually.''

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