Sindarius Thornwell’s playing time might be down during his second NBA season, but his coach’s confidence in him isn’t.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers wasn’t afraid to put the former South Carolina basketball great in with 4.3 seconds left and the game on the line Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets. Thornwell rewarded Rivers’ belief in him by denying Hornets’ All-Star Kemba Walker the ball and forcing Marvin Williams to take the final shot.
Williams missed and the Clippers won 117-115. Los Angeles trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
“I have confidence in putting him in any point in the game,” Rivers said. “What I like about Sindarius the most is he will go five or six games without playing and he is always ready.”
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Being prepared is something Thornwell prides himself in as much as his lockdown defensive skills that played a part in him being taken in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft.
“When I’m sitting on the bench, I’m watching who I am going to guard and where he is shooting so when I do get called I already know how he is going,” Thornwell said. “Best thing you can do is pay attention and stay prepared. Then when that chance comes go out and play.
“Treat your workout like games, study your matchups, and study film. I’m still prepared even though I might not play. This is my career and I have to do everything I can to be prepared in this job.”
Thornwell came into the Tuesday’s game averaging just 5.3 minutes, 1.2 points and has not played in 12 games, three more than his entire rookie season. But he played 14 minutes against the Hornets and earned his first start of the season against Indiana on Thursday as the Clippers’ roster was thin after the team made a pair of trade-deadline deals.
As a rookie, Thornwell averaged 15 minutes a game, played in 73 games (16 starts) and averaged 3.9 points. Still, the former SEC Player of the Year is happy with the way he is developing as a player even though his time on the court has been limited.
“Even though it hasn’t showed on the court with the numbers and minutes, I have gotten a lot better,” Thornwell said. “I’ve got confidence in myself. This season has been good to me even though I’m not playing or going like people think it should go. For myself and for the team, they are happy with my development I have had. Every day I come in and get better.”
In addition to getting extended playing time, Thornwell was happy to be back in Charlotte, which is about 40 miles from his hometown of Lancaster. He spent Sunday and Monday with his family and interacted with those in attendance at the Spectrum Center to see his only game this year in the Carolinas.
Thornwell’s family got a little bigger last year with the birth of his daughter, Skyla-Love, in September. His daughter, who lives in South Carolina, was born five days after his father, Gregory Wade, died of a heart attack at the age of 46.
A week after that, Thornwell reported to Clippers’ training camp and is doing his best to make his late father and daughter proud.
“It is a feeling I can’t describe,” Thornwell said of having a daughter. “When you are down and not having the best day, that is who I want to talk to and see her smile. That’s what I look forward to every day.”