Trail Blazers sign forward/center Kurt Thomas

TUALATIN, Ore. — The Trail Blazers got a little bit bigger — and a whole lot older.

Sunday, Portland signed 39-year-old forward/center Kurt Thomas to a two-year deal. The 6-foot-9 veteran is the oldest player in the the league and will begin his 17th season after stints in Miami, Dallas, New York, Phoenix, Seattle, San Antonio, Milwaukee, and most recently Chicago.

Interim Blazers general manager Chad Buchanan has said that, even after Brandon Roy’s unexpected retirement, the team’s priority is to shore up the front court. Sunday, it took steps to do just that.

“We need another big. We’re short on bigs. Kurt is a big guy with experience who brings some toughness to the floor,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “It’s a good fit for him…He’s someone that can rebound and defend and make reads. We’re looking forward to having him.”

Portland’s two centers are now a combined 76 years old. Marcus Camby, 37, is the other half of that duo, and he admitted that he never thought he’d again have an older teammate.

“Never. Not at this point on this team,” Camby said. “You look at the roster and most of these guys were born in the late 80’s. I was born in 1974. It’s good to see somebody my age besides the coaches.”

Camby played with Thomas in New York when the Knicks reached the NBA Final in 1999. That, too, was a shortened season following a lockout, and Camby couldn’t help but bring that up Sunday. But Marcus also articulated how Thomas was one of the, um…craftier players in the league — never shy about holding down an arm or grabbing a jersey to get the upper hand.

“He’s the number 1 guy with that stuff. All that grabbing and holding a jersey,” Camby said with a grin. “If you go up for an offensive rebound, he’s always holding your arm down so you can’t go. So, I’m glad he’s on our side now.”

Thomas, who was not at training camp Sunday but is scheduled to arrive Monday, holds career averages of 8.6 points (48.6 FG%) and 6.9 rebounds. He averaged 4.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 52 games with the Bulls last season. He also became the became just the third player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring (28.9 ppg) and rebounding (14.6 rpg) during the 1994-95 season at Texas Christian.

The Blazers certainly don’t expect anything close to that kind of impact, but they are looking forward to Thomas’ services.

“We’re excited to be adding the experience, toughness and veteran leadership that Kurt will provide for our team,” Buchanan said. “We’ve long respected Kurt and expect him to make a strong contribution to our organization.”

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