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Al Thornton: Tired but productive

While most players in the Washington Wizards locker room were either congratulating one another, getting dressed or a combination of both after a 101-95 victory over Chicago at Verizon Center, Al Thornton was trying to get comfortable while slumped back in the chair in front of his locker.

Nearly 30 minutes of playing time had taxed the 6-foot-8 forward to the point where his knees were wrapped in ace bandages over ice packs. Then Thornton, one of the Wizards' newest players, politely requested from a team staff member an ice bucket for both of his feet.

"Sore," Thornton said when asked how he was feeling. "I'm not used to these minutes, but I'm excited."

Thornton did manage a broad smile as he and Quinton Ross, another recent acquisition, went over the final stat sheet. It showed 17 points in nearly 30 minutes for Thornton, who landed in Washington after a recent trade reshaped the roster. The change of scenery also has given Thornton another chance at reaching the potential the Los Angeles Clippers coveted when they selected him 14th overall in 2007.

Thornton's minutes had been decreasing with the Clippers leading up to his trade. Over his last six games with Los Angeles, he averaged 17.5 minutes. In three games with the Wizards, Thornton has averaged more than 30 minutes.

On Monday night against the Bulls, Thornton had a critical basket to keep the Wizards ahead as Chicago was rallying late. The Bulls had trimmed the deficit to 96-95 with 1 minute 55 seconds to play when Thornton seconds later got a seven-foot turnaround jumper to fall.

Randy Foye followed with an 18-footer, and Washington's defense did the rest in the Wizards' third victory in four games since dealing Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, among others.

"My thing is to come out every night and play hard," said Thornton, who has scored in double figures in three straight games, including 21 points and a career-high four blocks in his Wizards' debut on Friday in a 107-97 win against Denver. "Like I said, that's what Coach [Flip Saunders] has been preaching around here. If we come out and play hard and compete and give ourselves a chance to win at the end of the game, good things happen."

By Gene Wang  |  February 23, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Al Thornton, Washington Wizards  
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Posted by: closg | February 23, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The Daily Dime is worth reading today. Apparently Flip was not very happy with veterans ignoring the way they are taught to play and just doing their own thing. CB and AJ were grating on HIS nerves too, apparently. There are also a couple of articles praising BTH for his play and effect on the Mavs. They're 4-0 with him starting and playing better defense as a team. Not surprising to those of us here who know basketball and recognized what BTH brought to the table as a Wizard.

Also not surprising is AB's emergence as the best scorer on this team. No, he hasnt gotten miraculously better in the last couple of weeks. No, his game hasnt changed. No, he hasnt just discovered consistency and decided to change his approach.
What's changed is his minutes. Period. This is the same guy was saw last year and earlier this year. He just gets to play through mistakes now and gets to touch the ball on offense. It should be obvious to all no that Gil wasnt the only black hole on offense. J abd CB were squeezing the life out of the ball and dominating it Iverson-style, as well.
We're now playing team ball because we dont have a star system any longer. Assists go up, ppl feel involved and want to play harder.
Any streetball player will tell you....If you get touches on offense, you're more likely to also play defense because you're in the flow of the game.
The trades were a steal for us. Singleton is a beast and Ross can shoot. Thornton is small but against smallish power guys like Melo or Maxiell, he's the answer.


Posted by: original_mark | February 23, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Guys enough with the NY bashing.
He has the same potential as AB.
I maintain that every team has at least 10 players that if given 30 minutes or more, could excel.
NY when given 30 minutes or more would average over 20, as he has done, and would meld into the flow the same has AB has done.
He remains a very talented though enigmatic performer, just like most other talented players, who are not given at least a fair shot at getting into the flow.
JM also needs court time, and not just cursory starting time for 5 minutes.
There are very few youngins who could play minimal minutes, not getting acclimated, and still shine.
I have not had the pleasure of seeing the new look Wiz, as I am in Boca Raton for the winter.
I love what appears to be the instant rejuvenation of a moribund franchise.
The Wiz are now in excellent position to make fast and successful transformation to a young and athletic, exciting team.
Please grow up and stop dissing the youngsters who have not had the luxury of extended ooportunity to grow and develop confidence and their game.

Posted by: mricklen | February 23, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

If we'd have been able to make these trades earlier, we'd be a playoff team. I'll bet we come close this year. We'll probably wind up a game or two out of it. If someone really nuts, we have a shot.

Posted by: original_mark | February 23, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

HATIN' on HAYWOOD:

Just a quick note to the BRENDA HAYWOOD post regulars on this blog. What do you think of MAVARICK HAYWOOD after his first four in DALLAS?

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 23, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 23, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I was counting and looking at the standings. We can move easily into the nine slot, but into eight will require roughly a .500 season. At this point, I can't see it, but .750 the rest of the way will just about get us there. If MILWAUKEE tanks, we'd be in. Somebody in the top eight would have to for us to be play-off bound which would be fine with me.

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 23, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

In my view, trading Haywood was the only mistake made in the last series of trades. He is still young, getting better AND more consistent each year. Young, healthy, consistent starting centers are not a glut in this league.

Posted by: Edgemoor | February 23, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm torn on what's happening. On the one hand, the team is playing inspired, energetic ball for the first time in two years, and some young guys are showing they're worth building around. On the other, tanking for a top pick is probably the best long-term strategy for the team, and they're fast playing themselves into fewer lotto balls. So... I dunno.

Posted by: pondaz | February 23, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Did any of you read the "Thank You" letter Caron wrote to the fans (and the City of DC) which was in yesterdays WaPo?

Very classy.

Posted by: Lisa_R | February 23, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

It is pretty clear why Nick Young is not gettting any playing time. He is not doing the three things that are making the Wizards sucessful now.

1. Play Defense
2. Move the ball on Offense
3. Hussle for loose balls

Posted by: dcinmd1 | February 23, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

It is pretty clear why Nick Young is not gettting any playing time. He is not doing the three things that are making the Wizards sucessful now.

1. Play Defense
2. Move the ball on Offense
3. Hussle for loose balls

Posted by: dcinmd1 | February 23, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

True, although he did against DENVER.

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 23, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Young, healthy, consistent starting centers are not a glut in this league.

Posted by: Edgemoor | February 23, 2010 9:24 AM |

Young? Consistent?

Are we talking about Haywood? The guy who lost a starting job to Jahidi White, Etan Thomas and Calvin Booth? Sometimes in the same season for crying out loud!!

Dude just cause you miss BTH doesn't mean you can rewrite history.

Posted by: elfreako | February 23, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Caron is good guy and apparently the Dallas players and announcers have taken to him as well, as some are now chewing straws.

Posted by: gimmedat | February 23, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Guys enough with the NY bashing.
He has the same potential as AB.
I maintain that every team has at least 10 players that if given 30 minutes or more, could excel.
NY when given 30 minutes or more would average over 20, as he has done, and would meld into the flow the same has AB has done.
He remains a very talented though enigmatic performer, just like most other talented players, who are not given at least a fair shot at getting into the flow.
JM also needs court time, and not just cursory starting time for 5 minutes.
There are very few youngins who could play minimal minutes, not getting acclimated, and still shine.
I have not had the pleasure of seeing the new look Wiz, as I am in Boca Raton for the winter.
I love what appears to be the instant rejuvenation of a moribund franchise.
The Wiz are now in excellent position to make fast and successful transformation to a young and athletic, exciting team.
Please grow up and stop dissing the youngsters who have not had the luxury of extended ooportunity to grow and develop confidence and their game.

Posted by: mricklen | February 23, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

nick young sucks, he dribbles too much, plays no defense, doesn't hussle, and if you have ever sat courtside is constantly talking back and forth with fans. there are plenty of reasons why he isnt and will not see consistent playing time this year. it is too bad they picked up his option, but i dont blame ernie because he has potential and its hard to predict whether a player is going to get it(see blatche)

Posted by: billy12 | February 23, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

good for BTH, hope all 3 of our formers do well.

but in case y'all hadnt noticed, we're not missing a thing with brendon gone. Scoring and defense have both improved, so have fast break point and points in the paint.

This is just a better team than the previous version, and it's not BTH or CB or AJ specifically so much as the staleness the 3 of them were throwing out on the floor

Posted by: divi3 | February 23, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Are we talking about Haywood? The guy who lost a starting job to Jahidi White, Etan Thomas and Calvin Booth? Sometimes in the same season for crying out loud!!

Dude just cause you miss BTH doesn't mean you can rewrite history.

Posted by: elfreako | February 23, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

That's ancient history to you mr. freako. What have you got for me lately. Nice take. LOL.

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 23, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Mark - "Also not surprising is AB's emergence as the best scorer on this team. No, he hasnt gotten miraculously better in the last couple of weeks. No, his game hasnt changed. No, he hasnt just discovered consistency and decided to change his approach."

Mark, wait until Andre plays a bad game or 2 and you will surely hear the hyenas in this blog. They are already waiting (drooling) for it to happen.


Posted by: Dave381 | February 23, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

"They're 4-0 with him starting and playing better defense as a team. Not surprising to those of us here who know basketball and recognized what BTH brought to the table as a Wizard"

Mark - And you know (K)ing Scar still thinks Ethan is a better C than Brendan.

Posted by: Dave381 | February 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

As I stated in the blog last week, I was happy with Grunfeld's trade choices. They have proven to be right on target. Washington has a team that plays hard and expects to win every game. Now if we can get "Agent O" outta here we'd be in good shape. Because if we keep him, he'll turn this team stale with his selfishness just like he did before.

I think it's time to get a Wizards T-Shirt!!!

Posted by: carterm1 | February 23, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Great win last night. A few observations:

For all of our hustle, our transition defense is very bad. We're giving up easy buckets, because we're not getting back quickly off missed shots, etc.

Derrick Rose is the real deal.

Javale is great at blocking shots man-to-man, but needs a lot of work defending guys driving to the rim. And someone needs to tell him to stop saving the ball in-bounds to four guys on the other team.

Strikes me as strange that Nick Young doesn't seem in sync with this group. I thought the more open style of play would go well with his one-on-one skills.

Finally, on Haywood, the answer is somewhere in the middle. He's a good defender (including against other big centers in the West), average rebounder, below average offensively, average passer, who has lousy hands but essentially does his job and doesn't make many mistakes, doesn't take stupid shots. For what the Wizards were paying him, he was a very good value for us. He's going to want a big salary increase at year's-end which is why it's good we traded him while we could. He's not worth to us what we would have had to pay to keep him.

Posted by: jweber1 | February 23, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Great post original_mark!

I cosign everything you said! The casual fan knows little about the nuances of basketball and most often just parrots popular opinion. If I had a dime for the number of times I've heard the phrase: "the Wizards need a big man..." -- Grrr! This, when the Wizards had a very accomplished big man in BTH, as borne out by his statistics. The problem has always been the coaching (EFJ or EFT) and the deference shown to Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler by the coaching staff and the local and national sports media. The previous Wizards beat writer is especially notorious for heaping praise on EFJ, Jamison and Butler while chastising and calling out BTH, AB, NY... Never a mumbling word did he ever utter in even mild criticism of his Fave 3. I loathe that kind of hypocrisy and favoritism!

At any rate, I've seen all along that AB would be special if afforded similar opportunities the former Wizard "all-star" players were given. Keep it up AB -- I'm lovin' it!

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | February 23, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

It's funny the number of posts I read now in praise of Haywood. To say the least, that has not been the case for the most part while he was a Wizard. He was under-appreciated here by the fans and media, but is now showing that he is a legit NBA center. He is not in class offensively with Dwight Howard, but he is certainly a cut above most of the rest.

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | February 23, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

BTH's style and abilities are suited to a jumpshooting team. Note the Mavs were outscored 40-28 in the paint last night. Good luck BTH, but I for one am hoping the wiz are onto a better style of play.

Posted by: divi3 | February 23, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone else note the better attitudes on this "new" team. The body language and enthusiasm last night were great. Compare this to the previous group and it is obvious just how toxic this team had become. At least the rest of the year should be fun.

Posted by: jhg_hoops | February 23, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"In my view, trading Haywood was the only mistake made in the last series of trades. He is still young, getting better AND more consistent each year. Young, healthy, consistent starting centers are not a glut in this league." - Edgemoor

"Finally, on Haywood, the answer is somewhere in the middle. He's a good defender (including against other big centers in the West), average rebounder, below average offensively, average passer, who has lousy hands but essentially does his job and doesn't make many mistakes, doesn't take stupid shots. For what the Wizards were paying him, he was a very good value for us. He's going to want a big salary increase at year's-end which is why it's good we traded him while we could. He's not worth to us what we would have had to pay to keep him." - jweber1

I agree mostly with both of these. Haywood was the only guy traded away who was still playing at his best, and seemingly improving. He also seemed to have the best attitude of the vets traded away, which is funny, since he was known before as having a bad attitude. Personally, I think he's one of the best defensive centers in the league, probably top 5 if you're talking pure centers. While he's not an offensive force, he fills his role. The problem isn't so much that he'd want too much money next season, but that if we are rebooting from scratch, a 30 year old mid-to-high priced center doesn't help our team grow and wastes his remaining years.

On the other hand, if the goal is to keep Arenas, bring in a top flight free agent, and be right back in the mix, we can technically still sign Haywood as a free agent.

For example, if Blatche continues like this for the rest of the season, and we decide we need to stick with Arenas. Bringing back Haywood and trying to sign Joe Johnson might be a great course of action for this team.

Posted by: segastyle | February 23, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

not really tripping off of NY right now. he's coming off the bench, giving effort ( DEN game) on O and D. I f we can win with him coming off the bench dropping b/w 8-12 a night, I'm cool with that. The one thing you can say is that the kid knows how he can score. he is pretty sharp with his mid range game, when he's on. I don't know if hos role with the team is to be creative with the ball, that's why he doesn't penetrate as much. i think he's also confident enough in getting his J off, that he doesn't try to drive as much. This is maybe why he hasn't figured out how to get to the rim and throw down the dunks some of us are looking for. He just has to get a better feel for the game and his role when he comes in the game. He can be a Vinny "microwave" johnson type player, but he has to bring the defense and work on shot selection. I'd like to see him play more, but wins are all that matter. If Howard,Ross,Miller, Young and Thornton all have to share some mins at the 2 to get us a W i'm all for it. it's not like NY is sitting for DS anymore. Of all Flip's moves right now, i can ride with NY having to "earn" more mins now.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | February 23, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Agree with you, segastyle.

This may surprise people here, but Dwight Howard, someone who knows about defense and has played against Haywood head-to-head in numerous occasions, rated Haywood as the top 3 defender (himself #1 of course)!

Anyway, I think Haywood found a home now, fans over there love him (think where Dallas gonna be without him now), and it was Cuban who insisted that Haywood be included in the trade, so I am happy for him.

Posted by: sagaliba | February 23, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't have a problem with Nick Young's basketball style. He's a laid-back Southern Californian. Different players have different basketball personalities. And contrary to what some posters think, Nick Young DOES play defense. Nick will soon have the opportunity to showcase his talents, because Josh Howard is day-to-day with his knee injury.

After the fiasco with Gilbert's knee injuries, I think the Wizards will be conservative and let Howard's knee fully heal. That opens the door to increasing Nick Young's playing time.

Posted by: musicmanjr | February 23, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, my math is correct and we are 3-1 over the last 4 games. This group of players are exciting and hungry. My only concern is how in the world do you want to bring GA back? We need unselfish players who play as a team. We need a center and a point guard with these players to be even better. Suprised someone hasn't come up with a Tee shirt saying the REPLACEMENTS.

Posted by: Drkitchen | February 23, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

a lot of people who hate on brendan haywood are remembering the young guy coming out of NC with the label of being soft. true that. but as the years went by he became more assertive on defense, then he needed to learn how to catch the ball in traffic and take it up over his head instead of handing it to the opposing guards dropping down on him. he did that, and actually started going up strong to the basket. that's what he was showing this year. not a number 1 option on offense, but you could now throw him the ball. his problems this year was not being incorporated into the offense at the end of games. there were other people determined to hit the important shots. he didn't disappear, he was overlooked. for dallas it works because he doesn't demand the ball, and he fills a void after dampier got hurt. all players progress and develop at their own pace. maybe brendan was a little slow, but he has developed into a quality big. there's not a lot of those running around. it's always what have you done for me lately, and brendan was ranked statistically in the top 10 or so all year, in most categories associated with a big. him coming back in the near future wouldn't be a bad thing. he probably fits better with the guys here now than he did with the guys he was here with before. probably won't happen though.

Posted by: joerutgens72 | February 23, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"Strikes me as strange that Nick Young doesn't seem in sync with this group. I thought the more open style of play would go well with his one-on-one skills".

Posted by: jweber1 | February 23, 2010 10:11 AM

It's strange because Nick can't get on the floor. How can he get into a flow in the game when the coach won't give him consistent PT(at least 20 min)? Flip has something against NY as he does with McGee. His hand was forced last night with the injury to Howard and he still would not give him time. I just believe they are wasting his talent. With the playoffs highly unlikely, why not let him play to properly evaluate him for next season.

Posted by: garrybrown | February 23, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Would everyone please stop talking about the Wizards defense. While it may be better, it still isn't good. And looking at 4 games to compare to the rest of the season before the trade is hardly fair. The only notable win was the Denver game and everyone is saying that was more of a let down game on their part, coming off that battle with Cleveland the night before. Blatche is playing more minutes and scoring more, but he's looking to shoot every chance he gets. Wait til teams start actually putting a defender on him. Now with Howard the rest of the season, our rotation is even slimmer. McGee provides energy, but that's about it and even then his energy sometimes gets him in trouble like going after rebounds there's no chance he'll get, leaving himself on the wrong end of a fast break for the other team. He can't defend in the post against other big men and on offense, if he's not dunking it, it's not going in the basket. Until they buckle down on defense I'm not expecting this team to do anything. Look at all the great offensive teams that Phoenix had during their peak years, yet they never won a ring. Defense is the key.
It's nice to have something to talk about the rest of the season, but we can't really even begin to think about how this team is going to be in the future until we see what they do this offseason as far as the draft and free agents go.
Just keeping it real with you all.

Posted by: covertops26 | February 23, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Few notes here...

While I was sad to see Haywood go I realize it had to be in order to pass off Caron to the Mavs, we needed to shed the contract and they would only take Haywood back and we dont know if we can resign him in the offseason anyway. Remember he isnt exactly young either. He is 30 now and we all know big men can break down fast. Take a look at Garnett in Boston. Just 3 years older.

Why are all the media outlets saying this trade with Cleveland was a giveaway? Remove the big Z aspect from it. Drew Gooden is a punk, he hops around everywhere and we spun him off for Thornton who is still young and has alot of upside, and basically got rid of Jamison's contract for a round 1 pick. Regardless of how late it may be, it is still a pick...and smart teams find gems there and this draft is considered deep.

Lastly for the love of god please please trade Arenas,void his contract if possible,buy him out if he wants, whatever it takes. That contract is hell and unless he transforms into a passing point guard (his assists were trending upwards at least, but with a bunch of new guys and no Jamison and Butler I just see him launching up shots again) we wont win...nobody wins with a shooting first PG.

Posted by: Killerangel81 | February 23, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I hope Nick Young is reading this.

The saddest thing in the world son is wasted talent. I watched Nick drive to the basket and think he got fouled , so he would stand there and pout. He doesn't show the hunger that Blatche and the replacements with. I think Nick thought when coming here in the draft that he felt he was safe being a friend of Gilberts.

I see all these people complaining about Flip not playing Nick, but why should he if the other guys ie.. Ross,Singleton and Thornton are playing defense and scoring. The new guys also play defense. How many rebounds has NY gotten in a game? How many assist? Is he pouting because all his buddies have been traded away?

Posted by: specialg7master | February 23, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I just dont like players like Haywood who miraculously pad their stats in a contract year,what about the first 9 years, where were those stats then? We have to be patient with his young replacement,and get him to stop thinking everytime he gets the ball he has to shoot it,whats up with that?I like the teams new energy and now they are fun to watch,going to the game Friday to see them kick some new look Knicks butt!!GO WHIZ!!!

Posted by: BRUBOI | February 24, 2010 4:37 AM | Report abuse

Nick Young is another Kenny Green

Posted by: jtrob_1 | February 24, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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