Thornwell, drafted forty eighth by the Clippers after he capped his 4-yr profession at South Carolina by main the Gamecocks to their first NCAA Ultimate 4 look, needed the duty of defending Lakers ahead Brandon Ingram, the most effective and most skilled participant on the Lakers’ summer time squad. Understanding that Thornwell sought a troublesome task in his first recreation in a Clippers uniform gave Sam Cassell, their Summer time League coach, appreciable perception into the 6-foot-5 guard’s fearless thoughts-set.
“You don’t ask to protect the perfect participant on the other group. He requested for the problem,” Cassell stated. “To see him go on the market and put forth the trouble and tackle the problem to protect a man like Ingram was big. So that’s good.”
Ingram and Thornwell tied for scoring honors that night time with 26 factors every, however Thornwell gained raves for his aggressiveness — he shot 18 free throws — and for his willpower on protection in 32 minutes’ work. After enjoying solely about 18 minutes in a rout of the Utah Jazz on Sunday he got here again with one other robust effort Monday, enjoying greater than 27 minutes and including to his resume an 18-level, 5-rebound, two-steal efficiency within the Clippers’ one hundred-ninety three victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Cox Pavilion.
“The pitbull,” Cassell referred to as Thornwell on Monday, after the Clippers accomplished their third straight come-from-behind victory in Summer time League play. “He’s vicious.”
Thornwell took that as excessive reward. “I like that,” he stated. “I’m aggressive. I’m not ready for anyone to assault me. I’m going to assault them.”
Thornwell, voted the Southeastern Convention participant of the yr as a senior, was the primary South Carolina participant since 2006 to be an NBA draft decide. His good ballhandling expertise are complemented by his potential to create area together with his physicality. He averaged 21.four factors, 7.2 rebounds and a couple of.eight assists per recreation as a senior however missed six video games after being suspended for an unspecified violation of group coverage. The Gamecocks have been 7-zero earlier than his suspension and three-three with out him. He returned in time for SEC play and had a key position of their run to the Last 4 as they beat Marquette, Duke, Baylor and Florida earlier than they misplaced to Gonzaga. His performances raised his profile earlier than the NBA draft and made him engaging to the Clippers, who purchased the forty eighth decide from Milwaukee for money.
“He embraces contact. Whenever you get to the free-throw line 18 occasions, you need to embrace contact,” stated Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ government vice chairman of basketball operations.
However that’s solely a part of what he can do.
“He can rating. However what I like extra about him is his toughness,” stated coach Doc Rivers, who sees Thornwell as a capturing guard or small ahead. “He can defend. He’s a scoring defensive guard, he can play the 2 and the three. He’s in all probability a tweener, so he can do each. His in-between recreation is superb. And he makes threes. Once you see them, they don’t look good however they go in.”
That’s all that issues.
“He has an excellent really feel for the sport,” Frank stated. “He’s not essentially a knock-down shooter however he simply is aware of tips on how to play the sport, and that toughness and that competitiveness, I assumed that’s what stood out to me. He embraced making an attempt to protect Brandon Ingram, who’s one of many higher younger gamers within the league, and that’s what you’re keen on. You embrace somebody who simply sort of embraces competitors.”
Thornwell stated he volunteered to protect Ingram in recreation towards the Lakers not as a result of it was Ingram however as a result of he likes that position. “I’ve all the time guarded one of the best wing all through school and so I felt like I ought to have been on him,” Thornwell stated. “When he acquired going, that’s once I stepped up and took the problem. It was good.”
Thornwell hit solely seven of sixteen photographs Monday however made a number of well timed performs and hit the layup that put the Clippers forward for good at seventy seven-seventy five early within the fourth quarter. Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 21 factors and Jamil Wilson scored 18 off the bench.
“I’m simply enjoying my recreation, doing no matter my group asks me to do,” Thornwell stated. “Attacking the basket, guarding, simply bringing the power to the group. That’s what I do.”