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Bobcats, Thomas agree on 5-year, $40 million deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats made a long-term commitment to forward Tyrus Thomas on Friday, coming to terms on a five-year, $40 million contract with the restricted free agent.

The deal was struck shortly after the New Jersey Nets presented a front-loaded offer sheet that would have been difficult for Charlotte to match because it's close to hitting the luxury tax, a payroll figure owner Michael Jordan said the team would not exceed.

Agent Brian Elfus said two other unnamed teams also expressed interest in the athletic shot blocker, whom the Bobcats considered as one of their top offseason priorities.

"Tyrus is happy this deal is done," Elfus said. "He's very happy about returning to Charlotte and playing for coach (Larry) Brown."

The year-by-year breakdown of the deal had yet to be determined, Elfus said. Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins didn't immediately return a message seeking comment, and the team wasn't expected to announce the move until the deal is signed.

The Bobcats are convinced the 6-foot-10 Thomas will be a key cog in their rotation despite past troubles. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 draft by Chicago was suspended twice by the Bulls for conduct detrimental to the team and had been criticized for not reaching his potential.

The Bobcats acquired Thomas in a trade deadline deal with Chicago in February, giving up a future first-round pick along with guards Flip Murray and Acie Law.

Thomas, the type of long, athletic, versatile player Brown craves, averaged 10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 25 regular-season games with Charlotte. He closed the season with 21 points and nine rebounds in a loss to Orlando that completed the Magic's first-round playoff sweep.

The Bobcats made a one-year, $6.2 million qualifying offer to Thomas last month to make him a restricted free agent. Thomas said last month that his preference was to sign a long-term deal with the Bobcats.

The deal could be the beginning of a busy offseason for the Bobcats.

Unrestricted free agent Raymond Felton isn't expected to return for Charlotte, leaving a hole at point guard. The Bobcats have been active in trade talks with several teams, intent on unloading a big contract to clear salary-cap space.