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CLIPPERS FYI

Thornton is definitely in their plans

October 22, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Dillman is a Times staff writer

All about Al. Understated Al. Entrenched Al.

Either description would nicely fit Al Thornton. As expected, the Clippers on Tuesday exercised their third-year contract option on Thornton, who is in his second season with the team.

Understated?

"It tells me I've been doing some good things, right things," he said before Tuesday night's exhibition game against Phoenix at Staples Center, which the Suns won, 86-69, the Clippers' second loss in six exhibitoin games.

Entrenched? "I'm a Clipper player," Thronton said.

So the less-understated quotes will have to come from elsewhere. "He could be an All-Star player in this league," said Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy.

You could use a basketball cliche to describe the Clippers' move with Thornton, which not only was expected but almost automatic considering his first season (he made the NBA All-Rookie team) and the early positive vibe around him.

Positive, in two ways. He has been mostly healthy (missing one preseason game), which is no small feat in Clipperville this fall, and was the team's second-leading scorer through the first five games, trailing only rookie Eric Gordon.

Thornton, who scored 13 points in 36 minutes against the Suns, has hit double figures in all of his exhibition appearances. Clippers center Chris Kaman had 16 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday, and guard Mike Taylor scored 12 points.

The Suns were without Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash, and the Clippers were missing their usual cadre of injured players: Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Tim Thomas. Dunleavy rested Cuttino Mobley.

"This was our first test in the sense that this is the first game where I think we played poorly," Dunleavy said, talking about a loss of poise in the second half.

Said Suns Coach Terry Porter: "I don't know if it was as much our defense as it was [their] offense. It was a mixture of both. Both teams had some bad stretches, offensively, in the fourth quarter."

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Coming attractions

Gordon vs. his old buddy Greg Oden of the Trail Blazers . . . must-see TV in Indianapolis. Tonight's exhibition at Staples Center will be their first meeting as pros; in fact, their first since high school. It might have more meaning in Indianapolis than in Los Angeles or Portland.

The last time Oden's team lost in high school was to Gordon's team, and they also played AAU ball together -- before Gordon went to Indiana for one season (2007-08) and Oden played his only college season (2006-07) at Ohio State.

"I'm looking forward to it," Gordon said this week. "I'm really looking forward to when the season starts, to when it gets real then."

So, there are no special feelings about this one against Oden?

"Well, I might talk a little bit of trash to him before the game," Gordon said.

"Me and him are pretty good friends. Hopefully, we're going to give them a hard time," Gordon said.

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Shaq sighting

O'Neal wasn't in uniform with the Suns, but he did sport a different look, wearing a tie that made him appear almost prep-schoolish.

Just call him Mr. Chips.

Doubt that will be one of O'Neal's new nicknames.

It's not easy to compete with the likes of Shaq Fu, the Big Aristotle and now, the Big Cactus.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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