NBA Summer League Mailbag
By Maurice Brooks
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LAS VEGAS, July 13, 2007 -- One question into interviewing the Clippers’ Al Thornton, I knew he was the type of player that I would love to have on my team.

“I should be doing better,” said Thornton after hanging 19 points and 10 rebounds on the Grizzlies in a four-point Los Angeles win Friday at the NBA Summer League. “I can play better. Defensively I can do better.”

I don’t know about you, but that is what I want to hear out of my first-round pick. While most rookies would be thrilled with posting a double-double, Thornton is not your average first-year player.

He was selected 14th at the 2007 NBA Draft after a standout four-year career at Florida State. During his senior season, he led the ACC in scoring, dropping in 19.7 points and pulling down 7.2 rebounds per contest.

His shooting numbers jump off the page. He converted on 53 percent from the field, including 44 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I thought I was going to be drafted higher,” said Thornton, who can play both forward positions. “The Clippers are a good fit for me, though.”

I have a funny feeling that more than one of the 13 teams that passed on Thornton may learn to regret it.

Against Memphis, the bundle of energy had all of his talents on display.

He faced the basket and took defenders off the dribble. He used his hops to pull down boards. He showed the ability to knock down the open jumper. And although he only had one block, he demonstrated excellent lateral quickness on defense.

Like most players at the summer league, Thornton wasn’t perfect. He committed nine fouls and was charged with six turnovers.

“In the NBA, you have to come out ready to play,” Thornton said. “The biggest difference from college to the pros is how physical the games are.”

Thornton has been one of the top players here in Las Vegas, posting averages of 17.3 points and six rebounds in three games heading into the matchup against the Grizzlies.

“This is real tough,” Thornton said. “I’m playing as hard as I can and trying to compete. It is going to take some time for me to get use to. I want to come in and make a contribution.”

If his performance on Day 8 was an indication, he won’t have a problem doing that.

Time to respond to some of your Race to the MVP e-mails.



Wayne in Georgia: I guess you don't count field-goal percentage in evaluating performance. If you did, then you wouldn't include Rudy Gay or Al Thornton. I'm sure their opponents will take their performances any day. It seems that all the media and ESPN pays attention to is points, no matter how many shots it takes to get them.

Brooks: Let me get this right, Wayne? If you are doing your thing in six or seven categories but struggling in one, you shouldn't be considered as a good player? OK, that makes a lot of sense.



Fert in Toronto: Man, what is your deal? You didn't even talk about my man Javaris Crittenton of the Lakers. He has been lighting up the floor and showing all of the skills you want to see in a professional baller. He should easily be in your top 15.

Brooks: I agree. Crittenton is going to be something special. Still, when you are being evaluated on just three games and you went scoreless (0-for-5) with just three helpers in one of them, your Q rating takes a hit.



Cinghiale in Italy: Marco Belinelli at No. 1? He is too young.

Brooks: Hmmm ... You are right, this summer league is full of 10-year veterans, not rookies.



Charles in Las Vegas: Hey, why don't you put Marcus Banks into the list. Although he played only one game, he scored 42 points. He is incredible.

Brooks: Andrew Dice Clay once told a roll-on-the-floor funny joke, but I don't think anyone, including his family members, would consider him the MVP of comedy.



Deep in Canada: Yo, Maurice, let me me start off by saying I think what you are doing with the R2MVP is amazing and you basically always get it right. My question is, do you think (Kevin) Durant and (Greg) Oden might have had too much hype?

Brooks: Is Deep really your first name, or are you trying to tell me you are tucked away in some uknown place north of the border (get it, Deep in Canada)? Anyway, I'm not ready to change my opinion on the the top two picks of the draft after a couple of games. Can we at least make it through the preseason before we start doubting the two super studs?



Samarth in Dallas: Are you kidding me, Aaron Brooks is doing the best!

Brooks: Unlike the NFL quarterback with the same name, this Aaron Brooks doesn't stink. Although he is Nicole Ritchie thin (I'm exaggerating), he has been nothing short of fantastic in both of his games to date.



Dan in USA: How is it that Louis Williams is not No. 1? He was way better than everyone else.

Brooks: Calm down there, Danny. When it is all said and done, Louis may end up the Alpha Male. If it wasn't for all of his turnovers, there would be no way he couldn't be.



Tony in Maryland: You are crazy. You don't have one Knick on your list. You are straight up biased against the KNICKERBOCKERS. Nate Robinson is worthy of MVP consideration. Thank you for showing your bias. It is obvious who you like.

Ben in New York: How is nasty Nate Robinson not even in the top 20? He is the best player on an undefeated team and should be considered. No team has come close to stopping the Knicks with Nate running the show.

Brooks: Remember, the Race to the MVP came out before Nate roughed up the Kings for 21 points and 10 assists. I think it is a safe bet that he will be in the next version.



Schanell in Arizona: Where in the world is Washington's Nick Young?

Brooks: Last I checked, Nick was a grown man. I didn't know it was my turn to watch him. Seriously, Young is averaging 15.5 points in two games, but he only has one assist and four rebounds. Also, the Wizards haven't won a game yet.