SAN FRANCISCO -- By Lenn Robbins -
As the Brooklyn Nets went through a high-energy practice Friday morning in The Olympic Club, Marcus Thornton, the team’s newest acquisition sat on the baseline, looking very much like a tiger that couldn’t wait to bust out of a cage.
“I was kind of mad because I couldn’t practice today but I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there with the guys and just getting a feel for the guys and them getting a feel for me,’’ said Thornton.
Thornton couldn’t practice until the players he was traded for, Reggie Evans and Jason Terry, passed their physicals with the Sacramento Kings. Thornton already passed his with the Nets.
But coach Jason Kidd, sensing that Thornton was itching to be part of the practice, cleared the court and allowed the powerful 6-2 shooting guard to attempt a halfcourt shot, which all the Nets an coaches often do to end practice.
Thornton’s shot was just short (only Deron Williams drained his) but the ice was broken. In that moment, Thornton became a Net and he couldn’t be happier.
“I haven’t played with a group of veterans like this since I’ve been in the league so I think it’s going to be great for me,’’ said Thornton. “I’m looking forward to it.’’
While Thornton watched practice members of the coaching staff filled him in on terminology and plays. Thornton said he would be ready to, ‘do what I do best,’ Saturday night (10:30 p.m.; YES) when the Nets [25-27] play at the Golden State Warriors (33-22).
What Thornton does best is score. He put up 42 points in a game against the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers earlier this season.
In two of his four seasons with the Sacramento Kings, Thornton averaged 21.3 and 18.7 points. But two coaching changes and significant roster turnover left Thornton in no man’s land.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable in the scheme of things,’’ he said.
Kidd acknowledged there would be an adjustment period until Thornton feels comfortable with the Nets. But Thornton’s already thrilled to be wearing the black and white of Brooklyn.
In addition to moving from Sacramento to Brooklyn – a clear upgrade – Thornton is coming to a team that is focused on a playoff run.
“I’m five years in the league, this is my fifth year, I haven’t been to the playoffs yet,’’ said Thornton. “So to have a chance to be able to go to the playoffs this year and years to come is great. I’m excited.’’
The Nets are not done making moves for the playoff push. On Thursday GM Billy King confirmed the Nets had worked out veteran Jason Collins and are looking to add a big man.
If the Nets sign the 7-foot center, he will be the first openly gay player in the NBA. That might be an issue on some franchises in other cities but not here.
“It’s definitely going to be a media circus, just because of the situation,’’ said Williams. “It will be a historic day.’’
“We definitely have to deal with that but with the type of team we have, veterans, guys that have played with him before, know him, it shouldn’t be a problem.’’
Kidd, a Hall of Fame point guard, got a taste of what the circus might be like and he handled it like he was dribbling through traffic.
A Bay Area reporter asked Kidd about the ‘attention’ that might go with signing Collins. Kidd responded by saying Collins, ‘is a basketball player. He’s a great guy. He can help a team win so that’s the way I think any team is going to look at it.’’
The reporter pressed, repeating the question. Kidd offered a similar response.
“I don’t know if you understand my question,’’ said the reporter.
“Maybe you don’t understand the answer,’’ said Kidd.