The Los Angeles Clippers threw Al Thornton away.
Maybe there were good reasons, maybe there weren’t, but after roughly two and a third years removed from making the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Luis Scola, and Al Horford, Thornton was essentially given away by Los Angeles last February to save money. In the three-team Antawn Jamison trade involving the Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Clippers sent away Sebastian Telfair (to Cleveland) and Thornton and got back Drew Gooden (from Washington), whom they didn’t retain as a free-agent this summer.
Al Thornton, a former lottery pick, was thrown away … and he noticed.
This off-season, with a possible starting position in view on a rebuilding team, especially with Josh Howard likely to miss some time at the beginning of the year as he recovers from a torn ACL, Thornton recommitted himself to his own game and his team.
Most notably, he’s tried to forget the nice climate and the beautiful LA babies and has spent more time in Washington, getting to know his new teammates, along with tagging along in Las Vegas while the Wiz kids showed their summer wares.
Not more important, but perhaps more crucial is the fact that Thornton changed his eating habits and lost a lot of weight, try 20-25 pounds worth (if you can believe that, I’m not sure I do). No more chicken, no more beef, mostly fish, is what now composes Thornton’s protein intake.
He says that in addition to not eating right, he just wasn’t taking proper care of his body, such as getting enough rest.
“It showed in my game, I couldn’t move the way I wanted to. I wasn’t consistent,” Thornton said. I asked him what ‘clicked’ in this regard … did he learn better habits from another veteran, perhaps? Thornton shrugged his shoulders and said, “I just needed to do it … I just needed to do it, from the way I felt,” admitting that sometimes you learn from experiences and as you get older … and that’s how things click.
Both Rashad Mobley and I were able to catch up with Thornton on Monday’s Wizards Media Day. Here’s what he had to say on a number of topics:
On staying at Florida State for four years:
“Well, the obvious disadvantage of staying four years is you’re gonna get drafted later, the age factor. But I think the positives are (first of all Trevor Booker is my man from the ACC holding it down) you’re more mature, your body is physically ready, and more ready to take care of business, more of the off-the-court game.”
On why he stayed four years:
“I needed to. Trust me, if I could have came out my freshman year I would have. For me, I needed to develop my game. That’s what it was about for me.”
On what Flip Saunders said to him at the end of last season:
“For the main part, he just wanted me to focus on my weight. I think that was that was the glaring issue. To come in, drop my weight down, and make sure I bring that defensive intensity every night that he saw flashes of.”
On being in shape:
“Yeah, last year I wasn’t in the best shape, but I feel pretty good, I dropped 20-25 lbs. and I feel light on my feet again, so I think that’s going to be a big difference in my game this year.
I was overweight and I think me dropping that weight, that’s my best playing weight.”
On potentially starting:
“It’s a great opportunity to come in and have a really good chance to be starting small forward, that’s what I want. I want to come out here and re-prove myself and show people that I’m able to play in this league at a really high level.”
On a fresh start with the Wizards:
“It feels very brand new … I came here mid-season after all the chaos (chuckles), and it’s like a fresh start and I’m ready to get it going. It’s going to be fun.”
On redefining his game:
“I think I’ll kinda re-define my game a little bit. Last year was the probably one of my worst years playing basketball in my lifetime. Like I said, I just want to come out and re-prove myself and show people that I’m able to play in this league at a consistent, high level.”
On being a leader:
“I feel good about it, you know, I have a lot of experience in the league. I played and started my first couple years, so I think I can help some of the younger guys, and I think I can help some of the older guys that are older than me, so I feel good being a leader.”
On the team scrimmages at the Verizon Center:
“The pickup games have been fun. They are real competitive, guys have been getting after it and it’s been good. The pickup games are more for getting to know each other’s games and about chemistry. Training camp is going to be entirely different.”
Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie contributed to this report.
[photos copyright Kyle Weidie, Truth About It.net]