Thornton signs with NLEX, team to join Dubai tournament
MANILA, Philippines - After weighing different playing options and offers over the past few days, ex-NBA player Al Thornton has committed to become the NLEX Road Warriors' import for the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
The development was confirmed to Rappler on Tuesday, December 30, by Thornton's basketball agent Sheryl Reyes and NLEX head coach Boyet Fernandez. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"He just signed today (Tuesday)," Fernandez said about Thornton, who's expected to arrive in Manila on January 9 - 5 days before the Road Warriors leave for Dubai to participate in an international basketball tournament.
"He is excited to finally meet his teammates," said Reyes. Thornton was always interested to come to the Philippines as an import in the past, but schedule conflicts between the PBA's conferences and his playing duties in China and Puerto Rico were in the way.
"He is eager to finally be able to play here."
Fernandez told Rappler that NLEX chose Thornton because they believe he's the best fit for the squad's offensive and defensive principles.
"Sheryl Reyes sent us a profile of the imports, then we checked him in the net and yung profile niya, then we matched it up with the talent that he has, kung mag fi-fit siya sa team namin (if he would fit in our team). We were really trying to get an import who can play the 3, 4, 5 position."
At first, NLEX tried to acquire naturalized Gilas Pilipinas big man Andray Blatche, who's currently playing for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
"Hindi kasi siya available because his team is doing good in China," Fernandez said about their pursuit of the former NBA big man. So they turned their attention go acquiring another talented import, and decided on Thornton.
(He's not available because his team in China is playing well.)
"We looked for an import who is really versatile. I talked to coaches and agents in the States who said Al Thornton fits our system in the end. He's NBA-legit. He can play inside-outside. So we said, why not?" said Fernandez, who noted the importance of bringing in a recruit who would complement Asi Taulava on offense and provide all-around defense.
"I'm sure he will be in shape. Hopefully he will adjust to our system."
Thornton will have a lot of time to build chemistry with his new teammates as he is expected to join them in their tournament in Dubai, which will have the Road Warriors on the road from January 14 to January 25. The Commissioner's Cup begins on January 27.
"It's an invitation from the PBA. Parang international league yan. Invitational tournament, which sasalian nang ibang teams from other countries," said Fernandez.
(It's like an international league. An Invitational tournament, which will also be joined by teams from other countries.)
"Kailangan namin mag bond talaga as a team… gagawin namin parang training camp yan eh. Hopefully it will give us time to bond for the players and coaching staff."
(We really need to bond as a team. We will treat it as a training camp.)
Thornton was drafted 14th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. He put up 12.7 PPG and 4.5 RPG in 79 games in his rookie campaign, which was good enough to warrant an All-NBA Rookie First Team slot.
Thornton's best season in the NBA was his sophomore stint with the Clippers, where he averaged a career-high 16.8 PPG and 5.2 RPG in 71 games.
After spending three seasons with the Clippers, Thornton was traded to the Washington Wizards prior to the 2009-2010 NBA season. He spent two years with the franchise. He last played in the 2010-2011 NBA season for the Golden State Warriors. He played only 22 games.
The versatile forward also played professional basketball in Puerto Rico and in China in 2012. – Rappler.com