Clippers forward Al Thornton goes to work against Pacers guard Dahntay… (Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire )
Aside from following a diet that focused more on protein and fruit, Clippers forward Al Thornton says something else this season also gave him an energy jolt. After scoring in double digits and shooting over 50% only once in the first four games, Thornton lost his role as a starter for three contests in favor of Rasual Butler.
Thornton said after Thursday's practice that his demotion helped spark a turnaround. He has since reclaimed his place as a starter and has scored in double digits in 12 of the last 13 games.
"You want to start," said Thornton, who is fourth on the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game. "You're competitive. This is what you love doing. The best players usually start. Coming off the bench was definitely a motivating factor."
But it wasn't the only one.
The 6-foot-8 Thornton hired a personal chef in the off-season and abstained from greasy foods as he dropped from 235 pounds to 230, but felt his quickness came only in spurts. Thornton couldn't pinpoint when he fully adapted to his diet, but said his energy level recently has been high.
"It took awhile," said Thornton, who ate chicken breast, pasta and tomatoes after Thursday's practice. "Once you do it you can tell there's a major difference to how you feel and how your body feels. It's an adjustment. But if you want to do well in this game, sometimes you have to make sacrifices."
Thornton doesn't want that sacrifice to include a bench role, but Coach Mike Dunleavy strongly hinted that rookie forward Blake Griffin will take Thornton's place whenever Griffin fully recovers from the stress fracture in his left knee.
"If we're a fully healthy team, maybe that role would be a good one for him," Dunleavy said about Thornton coming off the bench. "But based on where we are right now, we kind of need him where he is."
Clippers reserve guard Kareem Rush had surgery Wednesday for a torn ligament in his right knee, and Dunleavy says he expects Rush to miss the rest of the season.
Dunleavy indicated a few weeks ago that the length of Eric Gordon's absence because of a groin injury would dictate whether Rush's roster spot would be filled by another player. Gordon is back in the lineup, but Dunleavy was noncommittal about a replacement player Thursday.
Rush played in only seven games but impressed Dunleavy with his jump shot and defense. Rush was injured Nov. 17.