The Gatorade Blog: It’s Thornton Thursday!

The Clippers will introduce Al Thornton to the media today at 12 noon. (NBAE/Getty Images)

It's Al Thornton Thursday!
posted by Dena | July 5 @ 11:01 am

Happy Fifth of July Clipper Nation! I hope you all enjoyed your Independence Day yesterday. There's really nothing like taking a day off in the middle of the week to celebrate with your family and friends. I essentially spent the first half of my day watching Transformers (seriously, it's 2.5 hours long! Review coming later today...), then sat pool side at a friend's BBQ before heading over to the Dodgers vs. Braves game and fireworks with my family. The game was, well pitiful (we'll get to that in a minute) but the fireworks: SPECTACULAR. Seriously one of the best shows I've seen, and I never fail to get the chills when I hear Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A" (AKA "Proud to be an American") playing with red, white & blue fireworks dancing in the sky. Ooh. Got chills again just thinking about it.

As for the game... Mark Hendrickson pitched a two-run, seven-hit five innings in his first start since May 31st. Not a bad outing... but where were the Dodgers bats?! "I used to run base like" Juan Pierre was solid, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI, but nobody else showed up behind the plate. ATTN Nomar: Chicks dig the long ball. They don't dig three straight fly balls to center field that don't even reach the warning track! Get your bat back in it, Nomar!

Random trivia: Braves first baseman / catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's last name is 14 letters long - that's the longest ever in the Major Leagues, and it's so long it didn't fit on the Dodgers scoreboard.

OK enough about the boys in blue down the street... time for the CLIPPERS BASKETBALL!

We're introducing No. 14 pick Al Thornton to the media today in a little less than an hour. I'm going to have a chance momentarily to sit down and chat with the Florida State forward prior to the press conference. Stay tuned for press conference quotes, hard-hitting questions and anything else I can get!

I will finish the first entry of today's random-musing filled blog on a celebratory note. Today marks the one year anniversary of my first day on the job with the Clips. The year really has flown by so quickly that it's hard to believe it's already here. Most of you don't know me, so here's the quick rundown: born and raised in Los Angeles, I moved to Ann Arbor for undergrad at the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!), then spent four years working for that NBA team in Detroit (hence my affinity for Chauncey Billups). I moved back to the City of Angels last summer, and haven't looked back. It's been a crazy, fun-filled year and I'm looking forward to the next. To my pals in Detroit, I miss you, but I'm happy to say I'll never have to drive in the snow to get to work again!

I'll get to Vegas Summer League, the NBA rumor mill and more in just a bit. I'll be checkin' back with you soon!

Thornton is excited to work with fellow FSU Alum Sam Cassell. (NBAE/Getty Images)

I've Never Been to L.A. Before...
posted by Dena | July 5 @ 11:22 am

Just met with Al, and he's hands down one of the nicest guys I've ever met in my five years in the business. He just got to Los Angeles about an hour or two ago, and can you believe it? He's NEVER BEEN before! He said he's a little bit nervous and that people keep telling him he's going to find his way around pretty quickly, but growing up in Perry, GA and going to school in Tallahassee, LA is like nothing he's ever seen before. He's never been to Vegas either, so he's in for a real treat. I asked him if anybody has given him tips on how to survive his first trip to Vegas, and he said no. Hopefully Paul, Chris, Guillermo and the other guys will show him around...

Thornton is really excited to work alongside another former Florida State standout: Sam Cassell. He's met him a couple of times at tailgates in Tallahassee, but he hasn't had a chance to really sit down and talk to him yet. During his time at FSU, Thornton heard a lot about Sam through players, coaches and other people who were around while Sam ran the court. "He's old," Thornton said, then laughed.

Thornton said that playing in the ACC has really helped him prepare from the NBA. "It's one of the best conferences in America," he said. "It's the toughest competition by far." Duke was by far his biggest rival in college. I'm sure Elton and Corey are going to have a lot of fun with that this season...

If you didn't know, the 6'8'' Thornton comes from a VERY TALL family. His sisters are all almost six feet tall each, and his father is 6'6''. He and his dad used to play some one-on-one when he was growing up, and his dad would always win. "He used to beat me all the time," Thornton said. "But when I got older and caught up with my game, I could beat him."

Little known fact: Thornton had to choose between basketball and track & field in college. He attributes much of his basketball skill to his years doing track & field. He competed in the 400-meter, the long jump, the high jump and the triple jump. His highest jump was 6-feet, 10-inches. Now THAT'S what I call a high jump...



Random side note... I was watching my new favorite reality TV show Top Chef on Bravo the other day. First off, that show rocks. Second, I noticed that the lead judge Tom Colicchio bares a fairly strong resemblance to the Clippers' VP of Communications Joe Safety. I shared my findings with some of my co-workers in ClipperLand. We're all in agreement that the two could very well have been separated at birth.

Off to the press conference. Back with my Transformers review, NBA rumors and more soon!

Al Thornton with the text-to-win contest winner Richard Brasil. (Clippers Photo)

Meet the Press... and the Parents
posted by Dena | July 5 @ 12:36 pm

We just wrapped up the press conference introducing Al Thornton, who signed his contract today, to the media and the Clippers staff. The press conference was short and sweet, with the emphasis put on Thornton being the best player available when it was time for the Clippers to make the No. 14 pick. Coach Dunleavy said that when he met Thornton at the Pre-Draft Camp in early June, he told him that if he was still available at No. 14, the Clippers would be picking him. "Al was the guy we hoped to get," Dunleavy said. "We're extremely pleased to have Al, we're looking forward to having him in Summer League and starting the process of integrating him into the Clipper family."

Yes, everybody's happy, but I don't think anybody was jumping for joy more than Thornton's parents Alford and Philomenia.

"Call me Mena," Mrs. Thornton said when we met. Standing at 5'2'', she was the only person I met today that was close to eye level for me (remember, I'm only 4'11'' here!). I asked Mr. Thornton about why he and Al don't play one-on-one anymore, and he told me they stopped playing shortly after Al's junior or senior year in high school. That was about the time that Al grew taller than his father, and he dunked on him in their backyard. "That was the end of it," he said. Alford and Mena could not be more proud of their son for making it to the NBA. Today's agenda for the Thorntons: find Al an apartment close to the practice facility, tour around LA (it's also their first visit) and get to know the Clippers staff.

Al will be put right to work immediately. He signed his contract this morning and will be in uniform tonight at the Clippers' first Summer League practice.

Also in attendance at today's press conference was 19-year-old Richard Brasil and his best friend Stephan Edwards from Santa Rosa, CA. Richard was the winner of the Text-To-Win contest. He was one of only two Clippers fans to predict correctly who LA would pick at No. 14, which gave him the chance to win a meet and greet with the pick at the press conference. He and Stephen flew down from Santa Rosa this morning and will fly back tonight. Brasil, a life-long Clippers and Florida State fan, got to meet Thornton and get his autograph on a one-of-a-kind Clippers Jersey with the number 07 and the name THORNTON on the back. "I watched Thornton throughout his entire college career, and to be able to see meet him in person was a really cool experience," Brasil said. "He's going to be able to help right away, I know it."

The Clippers will be introducing second round pick Jared Jordan to the media tomorrow after the morning workouts. Stay tuned to hear more from him...

Transformers: TWO VERY ENTHUSIASTIC ROBOTIC THUMBS UP! (Paramount Pictures)

More Than Meets the Eye...
posted by Dena | July 5 @ 2:33 pm

Just learned that forward Yaroslav Korolev has been added to the Clips' Vegas Summer Leauge roster. Yari averaged 10.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg during the 2006 Summer League. Glad to see that he'll be back out there again this summer.

As promised my Transformers review is coming, but first...

Rumors and Ramblings Around the NBA

  • reports that Grant Hill has agreed in principle to join forces with Steve Nash in Phoenix for a two-year deal. The bi-annual extension calls for $1.8 million this season and almost $2 million in 2008-09 at the player's option. Come July 11th, we'll know whether or not the Clippers-Suns rivalry just got that much more interesting...

  • We've been hearing all week long about the monster offer that Orlando is making to guard Rashard Lewis. The number will most likely change by next Wednesday, but it's looking to be somewhere around $80 million for five years in the Magic Kingdom for Lewis. Holy Mickey Mouse, Batman, that's A LOT of cheddar! The question now becomes: is Lewis worth $80 million?

  • Speaking of guards who can shoot the lights out, on Tuesday my hopes and dreams of bringing "Mr. Big Shot" Chauncey Billups to Clipper Nation were shattered when reports were flying around about a five-year, $60 million deal to keep CB1 in "Tha D." Yesterday Billups' agent refuted these reports, saying they were nothing more than "vicious rumors", so... a girl can still dream. Although, knowing how Joe Dumars has made Billups his top priority for the off-season, it's probably safe to say the Clipper Nation won't be seeing "Mr. Big Shot" in a Clippers uni anytime soon. Sigh.

  • Rumors I'm not even going to pretend to talk about: Ron Artest to the Magic. Hedo Turkoglu back to Sac-town. Andres Nocioni and/or Anderson Varejao to the Grizzlies. Darko Milicic. Period.

  • Tony Parker and Eva Longoria are just hours away from their 7/7/07 wedding. I don't know why that's important. I'm just sayin'...

On that note...

Tranformers... more than meets the eye! I'm no movie critic, I just love movies. I've learned somewhere along the way during my 27 years of movie watching that the key to enjoying a movie such as Transformers is to go into it expecting two things:

  1. This movie is going to be a lot of fun and filled with explosions, a torrent of hot babes and an unwitting hero.
  2. Plot lines, while they are important, are rarely if ever the priority of a movie like this.

I sat through the two and a half hours of Transformers yesterday at the Mann in Westwood Village. The theater was packed (and thankfully air conditioned), and from the time the curtains were raised there was never a dull moment. The movie-goers cheered loudly when Optimus Prime made his first appearance, laughed at loud at the sheer impossibility of a UFC-type smack down between Prime and Megatron on the corner of Wilshire and Grand in Downtown LA, and (I'll never really understand this trend) the movie got a standing ovation when the credits were rolling.

Director Michael Bay did an excellent job bringing in the hot babes (Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor for the boys, Josh Duhammel and Tyrese Gibson for the ladies) and the explosions were truly remarkable. The film's lead Shia LeBeouf provided strength, comic relief and humility as the unwitting hero Sam Witwicky, and the plot actually had a little bit of substance (note: I said A LITTLE, not a lot). All-in-all, I give this movie two very enthusiastic rockin' robotic thumbs up and I can't wait for the sequel (if there is one, there was definitely an opening in there...).

I haven't seen Elton's movie Rescue Dawn yet, but plan to this weekend. It's great to see it getting great reviews in the LA Times and USA Today.

That's it for now party people. Check tomorrow for quotes from the morning practice. Until then...

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