Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: MrMichaelLee and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Redskins and Sports  |  RSS

Al Thornton has been "wildly" efficient for the Wizards

By Michael Lee

You ready for this elbow, Shane? (By John McDonnell/The Washington Post)


Al Thornton accidentally popped Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier in the eye with an elbow on Wednesday that led Battier to joke that Thornton "upholds his reputation of being the wildest player in the league. He's just wild."

Thornton may have an unorthodox style of play, but he is trying to change another perception about his game this season: That he is not a reliable source of consistent production. It's early, but Thornton has quietly been the Wizards' most consistent player through the first six games, providing relentless play on both ends of the floor.

"I'm just trying to come out and bring that intensity every night," Thornton said at the morning shootaround on Friday.

And, if you really want to understand how well the fourth-year has been playing, you need to look deeper than his 17.9 player efficiency rating -- which is best of any Wizard not named John Wall -- or that he's the only player on the roster with at least six rebounds every game; or that his 54.1 percent field goal percentage ranks tops among Wizards who average at least six attempts a game.

Coach Flip Saunders praised Thornton on Wednesday, when he scored 20 points, including a critical fastbreak layup late in the Wizards' 98-91 win over Houston. Saunders said Thornton has been "great at both ends...Al, right now, no one's talking about him. He's kind of the silent guy. But from the beginning to the end, he's probably been our most consistent player. You know, the other day, he's in there after we had the two practices, he goes back down to the gym and shot another 35-45 minutes. So he's seeing that the hard work is paying off for him."

How about this stat: Thornton has outscored opposing starting small forwards 96-32 this season.

Thornton has helped hold two opponents scoreless this season -- Atlanta's Marvin Williams and Battier -- while limiting Philadelphia's Andres Nocioni to just two. Only one opposing starting small forward has scored in double figures against the Wizards, with the New York Knicks' Danilo Gallinari getting 16 points against Thornton on Nov. 5. That was arguably Thornton's worst game of the season, when he scored a season-low eight. It was also the only time that he failed to keep his opponent from outscoring him (When he had nine points in the season opener, Quentin Richardson had just seven).

Granted, Thornton hasn't played elite players at that position, but what coach wouldn't want a player at any position to outscore his opposing number by more than 10 points each night?

If you take out Gallinari, the other five small forwards have combined to shoot 5 of 21 (23.8 percent). "I've been highly criticized for not being a defensive player at all. So that was one of the goals," Thornton said, adding that he made defense and conditioning his primary focuses this offseason. "Just watching film, knowing the guys tendencies that you might be guarding and just knowing the sets, being competitive. I've always been known as an offensive player. The main thing is bringing it on each side."

Thornton will get a challenge on Friday against Charlotte's all-star small forward Gerald Wallace, who is a fierce competitor most known in these parts for crashing into Gilbert Arenas's knee more than three years ago -- although Wallace has no recollection of that encounter. Wallace leads the Bobcats in scoring at 17.5 points per game and is a focal point of their offense, averaging 12 shots a game. He also is a rugged defender who should present some challenges for Thornton, especially given Wallace's reputation for being pretty "wild" as well.

"With this team, they are a team that's going to play hard. I think if you match their intensity, play smart, you have a really good chance," Thornton said.

By Michael Lee  | November 12, 2010; 1:38 PM ET
Categories:  Al Thornton  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: More of the same from Wall?
Next: Open thread: Wizards (2-4) vs. Bobcats (2-6)

Comments

You had me at 'intensity EVERY night' Al. I'm beyond sold on him as a key cog in the Wiz's future.

If he keeps it up, Big Ern should negotiate him an extension by February.

Posted by: elfreako | November 12, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"I'm beyond sold on him as a key cog in the Wiz's future."

Good luck on that, he said he was not going to sign an extension here and test free agency.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | November 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"'I'm beyond sold on him as a key cog in the Wiz's future.'

Good luck on that, he said he was not going to sign an extension here and test free agency.

- Ray"

Posted by: rmcazz | November 12, 2010 2:07 PM

Who knows what free agency will look like under the next CBA? Depending on it's terms, there might not be as robust a market for Thornton's services as he might hope. In any event, I'm enjoying his energy and intensity now, and thinking that if the team decides they want to keep him, they'll find a way to do so.

Posted by: rufus_t_firefly | November 12, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Wallace has no recollection of the incident?

Posted by: dlts2041 | November 12, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Contract year. Let's not forget that he was twenty-five pounds overweight last year.

Posted by: djnnnou | November 12, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Depends what is available in the next draft. If a top talent sf is available and drafted by the Wiz, then Al will probably walk.

Draft aside, both Thornton and Howard are in contract years. Who do you gamble on, Howard and his injuries or Thornton and his being 25 lbs overweight last year.

Considering age, I'd take Thornton. That, and the fact that Thornton is the only Wizard that physically punishes people is my choice.

Posted by: G-Man11 | November 12, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"Depending on it's terms, there might not be as robust a market for Thornton's services as he might hope."

And then you're going to have to deal with Arenas's fat contract or they aren't going to sign anybody.

But as you say we're going to have to wait until the next CBA looks like. Personally, I'd use for what he's worth this year and just let him go next year.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | November 12, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Wiz will have a hard time to stand the defensive intensity of babcats.If the coach pass a good game plan and they play together they can easily out score them.Arenas need to hit some 3 pointers, KH need to stop taking shoots, wall has to slow down if the floor is not open and try to operate on the pick and roll,some body need to have a hot hand for that since wiz are not known for efficient game around the rim,unless either JM or AB are getting miracless effort to overwelm the Cats' forwards.
I hope they will win ,wall will have a chance to be the best player of the east.

Posted by: gtefferra | November 12, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

In many ways Thornton brings more toughness than Butler did. For a guy nicknamed Tough Juice he sure did miss games with an 'assortment' of injuries (back, wrist, hip and even his feelings).

Al plays like a cyborg sometimes which is a good thing. Keep in mind how effective he was last year vs Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony. I really like the way he embraces the individual challenges without sacrificing his effort for team glory.

Posted by: elfreako | November 12, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Caron's toughness was in "reputation". His bark was not as loud as his bite. It looks painful defending Thornton. It didn't look that way for Caron. Caron is not as physical. Caron dribbled too much, trying to be fancy to be physical. Thornton just goes hard.

Posted by: G-Man11 | November 12, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Thorton is all over the place, guy is definitely a wildman and that's a great thing. He was the same way last year...but only on some nights. He is the only player on the team who regularly tries to destroy the rim and anyone standing in his way. Love how he has been playing!

Posted by: divi3 | November 12, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Who do you gamble on, Howard and his injuries or Thornton and his being 25 lbs overweight last year.

Free agency shouldn't be a gamble when it involves role players. Plus, Thornton has that Clippers stink on him.

Posted by: djnnnou | November 12, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Arenas need to hit some 3 pointers, KH need to stop taking shoots

Personally I like when KH is aggressive, at least as long as he is getting heavy minutes. Cant have your SG taking 5 shots in 40mins, it's playing 5 vs 4. When he's aggressive he'll get fouled and things will happen. Negative things too (like the turnovers) but that's still better than letting the other team ignore him.

Posted by: divi3 | November 12, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

If the Wiz offer Al a reasonable contract $4-6 million per over 3 to 5 seasons why wouldn't he take it?

He's got a stud PG who won't be able to drink legally until next Labor Day making his shot selection oh so delicious. That alone is motivation to play sound defense.

Plus Ernie has a hard on for Al... he admitted as much after the trade in February. We all know that Ernie takes care of 'his' guys.

Posted by: elfreako | November 12, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Why are people even comparing Caron to Al? Some folks just can't let go...regardless of what goes on for this team.

Al Thornton is a whole different beast and needs to be recognized as the individual player he is. I admire both those players and loved Caron's effort...but Caron had a MUCH different situation to deal with than Al Thornton.

There were HUGE egos when Caron was here, Gil and Jamison being among them.

So just let that be a bygone and let Al flourish without constant comparisons to Caron. Caron did Caron while he was here and true Wiz fans loved him for that. Let's hope Al does his thing and let's love him for that.

Posted by: cbmuzik | November 12, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I dont think Caron was ever quite the same after he dropped 40 on the Bucks a few years ago in a losing effort. Hurt his hip flexor or something, might have been misdiagnosed, dont quite recall...but he never got back to the cusp of eliteness he was on for a minute there

Posted by: divi3 | November 12, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who is tough enough to survive being struck by a car and still has not missed a single game this year is worth resigning.

Posted by: JohnWWW | November 12, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

The comparison comes because they play the same position cbmuzik. Just about every true Wizards fan loved Caron (myself included) but he was mentally shot this time last year and needed a change.

It's nice to have a low maintenance, high-energy, bull-in-a-china shop small forward who doesn't need public praise from his coach. He just does his job. No other agendas.

Posted by: elfreako | November 12, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

The comparison should be Al Thornton v. the 3-guard offense.

I think hands down everyone would say Al Thornton over the 3-guard offense.

But does anybody think that Mr. Flip has arrived at that conclusion.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | November 12, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

When Thornton goes to the bench I would bring in Yi as his sub at times.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | November 12, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

The comparison should be Al Thornton v. the 3-guard offense.

I think hands down everyone would say Al Thornton over the 3-guard offense.

But does anybody think that Mr. Flip has arrived at that conclusion.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD

Well, I believe they have played the much ballyhooed 3-guard lineup around 15 minutes this season. AT has played 200 minutes. So, short of further developments, yes Flip has arrived at that conclusion. I think 'forgetting' to put AT back in in the 4th, and AT's continued good play shut the door on an extended look at that lineup in the short term. If AT gets hurt or starts to struggle, Flip may revisit it, but hopefully by that time Howard will be healthy and will give him better options.

If and when Howard is healthy and effective, a more interesting lineup possibility may emerge, with Wall at the 1, Howard at the 2 and AT at the 3.

Posted by: ts35 | November 12, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company