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CLIPPERS FYI : Thornton weighs in on woes on court

November 17, 2009|Lisa Dillman

NEW ORLEANS — Conventional wisdom held that a slimmer Al Thornton was supposed to be a new-and-improved Al Thornton.

Instead, the Clippers' Thornton slid back a step or two after he dropped 25 pounds during the off-season, struggling with his confidence, struggling with his shot and ultimately losing his spot in the starting lineup.

Apparently, you can be too thin too fast.

It's fine for a supermodel, not so fine for a small forward.

Thornton is showing signs of coming out of his early-season malaise. He landed back in the starting lineup after shooting guard Eric Gordon was injured and Rasual Butler was moved from small forward to fill Gordon's spot.

Thornton's most complete game came Sunday, when he scored a season-high 20 points in the Clippers' 101-93 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which ended the team's three-game losing streak.

The scoring was one thing but his teammates noticed his focused aggressiveness. One play, in particular, stood out for Marcus Camby.

"He was definitely more aggressive, going to the basket. I knew he was into the ballgame when he shot the free throw, missed it, and got his own rebound back," Camby said. "That was a big play for us.

"He hasn't been playing Al Thornton basketball all season long. Now hopefully he can start getting into his groove. We're definitely going to need his scoring with Eric out."

That's because the Clippers' leading scorer, Chris Kaman, is averaging 22.3 points per game, but of the other healthy Clippers, only Baron Davis is averaging more than 10 points per game (14.8). Thornton and Butler are hovering just under an average of 10.

Thornton has been in double figures only four times in the Clippers' first 11 games.

Said Kaman: "I thought Al had a great game [Sunday]. It was Al's best game of the year so far. He can play. Something's been wrong. I don't know what it is. Something a little different. He worked so hard in the preseason to get back in better shape. He's picking it up a little bit."

Thornton said he believes he is getting close to where he needs to be, saying he is at about 80% to 85%.

He surmised that his rapid weight loss may have played a part in his problems through the preseason and the opening weeks of the regular season.

"You know that might have been it," Thornton said. "I dropped so much weight so quickly, I don't know if my body adjusted to it. I lost 25 pounds, like, quick. It took a while for my game to get adjusted to it."

Said Coach Mike Dunleavy: "The surprise was he got the weight off and the explosion wasn't back. But that's starting to come back for him as well.

"You could see in games where he was attacking the rim and he wasn't finishing above the rim. [Sunday], it was pretty easy for him. It was good to see."

Thornton's reward? A couple of members of the basketball staff put two candy bars on his chair in the locker room after the Thunder game.

"I can have a Snickers every now and then," he said, smiling.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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