Big Easy Buzz Blog - April 30, 2010

Collison, Thornton named to All-Rookie teams

Friday, April 30, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
By any measurement, the Hornets’ 2009 draft class of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton was the most productive in the franchise’s 22-year history. It was even more of a boon to the club when you consider that neither player was a lottery pick – or even selected in the top 20.

There were multiple NBA teams during the 2009-10 season that received substantial contributions from a talented rookie crop. The Sacramento Kings, for example, relied heavily on Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and forward Omri Casspi. But Evans and Casspi were the fourth and 23rd overall picks, respectively.

Meanwhile, Collison was the 10th point guard selected (behind Evans, Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Eric Maynor). Thornton was projected as a possible first-round pick, but as the draft approached, his stock seemed to dip to early-second round status. He finished as the fourth-leading scorer among rookies.

The rookie duo’s significant impact in New Orleans was recognized this afternoon in the NBA’s All-Rookie voting. Collison earned first-team honors, while Thornton was a second-team selection. It’s very rare that two players from the same NBA team both receive All-Rookie status, although it did happen in 2008-09, when Miami’s Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers were chosen.

You can congratulate Collison and Thornton on their All-Rookie status here in the comments section of the blog.

Season in review: Marcus Thornton

From Day 1, you could sense that Marcus Thornton was different from many NBA rookies. Generally quiet off the court, when the former LSU star gets between the lines on the hardwood, he’s one of the most fearless players in the league. That trait served him extremely well during his rookie season, when he went from a second-round footnote during the 2009 draft to the fourth-leading scorer (14.5 points per game) among rookies.

Thornton’s attacking approach led to a few extra bumps and bruises after drives to the basket, but it also made him a versatile offensive threat on a team that has often relied heavily on jump shots.

“I think that’s who he is as a player and part of his makeup that made him successful and got him to this point,” Jeff Bower said of Thornton’s aggressive style. “That’s how he plays, so we wouldn’t want to take that away from him, because that’s a valuable part of his game. As he continues to take hits, as all players do, they learn to adjust and pick their spots. But right now, that explosiveness is part of what sets him apart.”

By the close of the 2009-10 season, Thornton had developed a plan that will help him combat some of the pounding his body received as a rookie. He expects to spend extensive time in the weight room this summer, with a goal of adding a few pounds of muscle to make defenders bounce off of him on drives. He also aims to add a mid-range element to his offensive game, to go with his long-range shooting prowess and penetration into the lane.

Thornton on improving his offense:
“I want to work on my mid-range game. (I want) to be able to pull up and not (be forced to go) all the way to the goal every time, unless I have a clear path.”

On plans to improve physically:
“I’m trying to replenish my body from the hard season we had. Everyone’s body is not feeling the best right now, but that’s the life of the NBA. You have to deal with it. I actually gained weight (during the season), a couple pounds, which is crazy. I guess it was from the eating we do on the plane and things like that, from all of the traveling. But it might be good in the long run for me to gain weight. That all comes from getting in there and hitting the weights.”

On life for him now in his hometown of Baton Rouge:
“It’s been crazy. The guys I grew up with, they all tell me they knew I could (succeed in the NBA). People who didn’t even know me have been coming up and telling me how good of a job I’ve done. It’s great. I’m taking it all in. But to me, I’m the same person – the same funny person who loves to crack jokes. But I know when to be serious.”

On the future of the Hornets:
“I see hope. There were a lot of injuries, and we couldn’t really come together as a team. Next year I think we can do that.”

On playing in New Orleans:
“I love New Orleans. It’s right down the street from my house and where I grew up. So what better place than playing in New Orleans?”

On his unexpectedly large role:
“I thought I would just come in and be a role player, help (the Hornets’ key veterans) out. But when Chris Paul went down, I had to play significant minutes. I’m just happy it turned out like this.”