Other than perhaps Ron Baker and Emmanuel Mudiay, no Knicks player consistently draws the ire of the fan base more than Lance Thomas.

Well they’re in luck, because you won’t have ole’ Lance to kick around anymore. At least not for a month or so.

Thomas will be out for at least the next four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee for the removal of loose bodies. It sounds more or less like an optional procedure and it comes at a very convenient time, just as New York is facing a roster crunch for minutes.

Thomas got his first “DNP-CD” of the season on Wednesday against the Hawks, along with fellow veteran (on this team, at least) Trey Burke. Thomas had already seen his minutes start to decrease since he opened the season as the starter. While the Knicks are clearly going with a full-on youth movement, the fact that he’s shooting 34 percent from the field this season probably didn’t help.

This is one of those decisions a rebuilding team makes that makes you ask “does this qualify as tanking?” On the one hand, Thomas is one of New York’s three or four most competent defenders1. On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice how much the offense struggles at times when he’s in the game.

According to Cleaning the Glass, the Knicks score only 1.7 points per 100 possessions fewer when Thomas is in the game, but the eye test makes it seem a lot worse2.

At the end of the day, the Knicks just have too much of an incentive to develop their younger players to give minutes to someone whose contract will be bought out for the guaranteed portion of his 2018-19 salary – just $1 million. As it is, Burke currently seems out of a rotation spot, and Courtney Lee hasn’t yet been healthy enough to play. This move would seem to open the door for Kevin Knox to get more consistent minutes once he’s healthy, likely splitting time between the three and the four.

Does it spell the end of Thomas’ New York career?

Don’t bet on it. Even though he’ll be bought out of his current deal, it’s easy to see him returning next year on the veteran’s minimum or something close to it. He’s spoken openly about how much it means to him to be a Knick, and for an organization that is trying to bring meaning back to the Knicks’ Way, it makes sense to keep him aboard, a’la the Miami Heat and Udonis Haslem.

The sad part is that Thomas was once a truly productive player for the Knicks, which is why they signed him to this contract to begin with. Even this preseason, he looked like he had reverted back to that form, but it seems not to be. Perhaps this operation will put some juice back in the old legs and Lance will be heard from once more.

Every Knicks fan should be rooting for that outcome, because in an era where True Knicks have been few and far between, Thomas undeniably qualifies.