76ers bid to hold on to Thomas A source said their offer to the forward could be for six years and more than $50 million.

Posted: July 01, 2003

Living up to their word that re-signing Kenny Thomas would be their No. 1 goal during free agency, the 76ers yesterday extended an offer sheet to the forward, who is a restricted free agent.

The offer was believed to be for six years at more than $50 million, according to a team source.

Thomas, acquired from Houston in December in a three-team deal that also included Denver, averaged 10.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in 46 games with the Sixers. His overall performance against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals, not just his averages in that series of 10.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, played a big role in solidifying his future in Philadelphia.

"Kenny is a key part of our future," Sixers president Billy King said recently. "He's young, he's athletic, he can bang, and he's versatile enough to score from the perimeter. Plus, he always plays hard.

"When you look at our roster and some of the things we're trying to do in terms of having youth and athleticism, he fits the bill. I don't think there's any question about that."

King heard the same kind of praise for Thomas from Allen Iverson while talking about the Sixers' foray into free agency.

Teams can begin talking with free agents today, but they cannot sign them until July 16.

Thomas' energy, work ethic, and ability to play either small forward or power forward made his re-signing a priority. He will turn 26 on July 25.

"I know that I like Philadelphia a lot," the 6-foot-7 Thomas said last month while in San Antonio, Texas, for the NBA Finals. "They've been very good to me as an organization, and, obviously, I believe the Sixers have a chance to compete for a championship. So the situation is right.

"My teammates are great, and I'm confident that it's a great situation for all parties concerned. We'll see what happens."

Judging by the NBA's fiscal landscape, it's not as if Thomas will have a lot of options.

Because Thomas is a restricted free agent, the Sixers will have the right to match any offer he gets from another team. With the NBA's impending luxury tax set to kick in at about $52 million - a team must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on any payroll amount over that figure - owners are being careful about how they spend their money.

"We've said since the day the season ended that re-signing Kenny Thomas was our No. 1 priority," King said. "Nothing has changed. It still is our No. 1 priority, and it will remain that way until he gets re-signed."

Contact staff writer Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@phillynews.com.

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