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Bobcats sign Jefferson, Zeller as they amnesty Thomas

Along with signing free-agent center Al Jefferson Wednesday, the Charlotte Bobcats waived forward Tyrus Thomas under the amnesty rule and signed rookie Cody Zeller.

Wednesday ended the NBA’s annual moratorium on player transactions. Using the amnesty provision on Thomas means his remaining salary – about $18 million over the next two seasons – no longer counts against the Bobcats’ salary cap.

The move was expected. Thomas played in just 26 games last season, averaging 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds. While Thomas is gone, the ramifications of trading for him in February of 2010 continue: The Bobcats owe the Chicago Bulls a future first-round pick to complete that deal.

Under the NBA rookie pay scale, Zeller is guaranteed two seasons of salary. As the fourth pick, he will make around $7 million total over the 2013-14 and ’14-15 seasons. The following two seasons are each at the Bobcats’ option.

Double-team: Jefferson, who has averaged at least 17 points and nine rebounds each of the past six seasons, is the first player in Bobcats history who is likely to draw frequent double-teams.

In the past the Bobcats have been very easy to defend because you could guard all their players straight-up.

“It changes everything,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said of Jefferson’s offensive skills. “You can talk about ball-movement and unselfishness, but that stuff only comes into play when you can draw the second defender. If you can’t force the defense to shift, guys are (easily) guarded.”

Jefferson, a 6-foot-10 center, is generally regarded as a defensive liability, particularly against the pick-and-roll.

“I don’t think he’s nearly as bad as people are saying,” Clifford said of Jefferson’s defense. “It’s not like he’s immobile or anything like that. It’s not like you watch him on film and think, ‘He can’t do that.’ ”

Vegas bound: The Bobcats’ summer-league team was scheduled to fly to Las Vegas Wednesday afternoon. Their first game is Friday at 10 p.m. against the San Antonio Spurs. All Las Vegas summer-league games are on NBATV, either live or tape delayed.

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