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NBA Daily: Sindarius Thornwell Keeping His Focus

Sindarius Thornwell has seen limited action in the postseason but is learning from the experience and staying prepared in case he is called upon, writes David Yapkowitz.

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One of the toughest things to adjust to once a player gets to the NBA is dealing with sitting on the bench and not playing. Most players are used to being the top guy on their high school and college teams, then all of a sudden they’re racking up DNP’s.

Sindarius Thornwell starred at famed Oak Hill Academy in his senior year in high school, and he led South Carolina to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament in 2017. He was drafted in the second round of the draft that year by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Now in his second year in the league, he’s seen sporadic playing time since arriving in LA. Some nights, he’s a key part of the rotation. Other nights, he might play in garbage time or not even get off the bench. But despite that, he remains upbeat and is taking it all as a learning experience.

“It’s been developing, my second year has been spent developing, learning, looking at the game from a different perspective,” Thornwell told Basketball Insiders. “A lot of people who are in my situation would complain and come up with a bunch of excuses for why they aren’t playing. I look at it as trying to use what I can to get better, use this time to better myself mentally and physically.”

Thornwell showed flashes of potential last year as a rookie. He shot 37.7 percent from three-point range and had a few double-digit scoring efforts. This season, his offense has waned a bit, but he’s shown flashes on the defensive end. There have been times this season when he’s been called upon to get a quick defensive stop.

With all the ups and downs he’s had so far in his career, it can be challenging to maintain focus. He’s been able to do it, however, by using practice as motivation.

“Paying attention, treating your workouts like games, just stay locked in. You got to always know what’s going on, what the defense covers, what we’re doing on offense, what we’re trying to do,” Thornwell told Basketball Insiders. “As long as you stay in tune to what the team is doing and you treat your workouts like games, whenever your name is called, you’ll be ready for it.”

In the Clippers’ first-round series against the Golden State Warriors, he’s played a total of nine minutes and 13 seconds to this point. He played garbage time in Games 1 and 3, 13 seconds in their Game 2 victory, and didn’t play in Game 4.

It’s still been a learning experience for him though. He was on the floor to close out Game 3 even though it was a blowout. Some of the other young guys, such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet and Jerome Robinson have all played crucial roles at times against the Warriors.

While Thornwell hasn’t seen much time on the court this series, he still feels like it is important just to be able to experience the playoff atmosphere. For all the young guys on the team, whether they’re playing or not, it’s a key part of their development.

“It’s real important cause that’s where you want to be every year. We ain’t just satisfied with just being here this year and that’s it. We plan to be here every year. You don’t know how to get there if you’ve never been there,” Thornwell told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a good experience for us young guys cause it helps us to be able to carry this team to the playoffs for x amount of years that we’re here together. So that experience, and also being able to learn from the vets, guys who have been in the same position that we’re in, they do a great job of talking to us, keeping us focused, and keeping us locked in. I think it just helps us for years to come, us young guys will continue to learn as we go through the playoffs.”

The Clippers have positioned themselves to be an appealing free agent destination this summer with several max-level players set to hit the open market. They defied expectations by making the postseason, and have even been competitive for the most part against the defending champions.

They don’t have any the locker room drama or front office uncertainty that has seemingly affected their next-door neighbors, the Lakers. Thornwell credits the locker room atmosphere for the team’s success this season. They may not have had a ‘superstar’ player so to speak, but the entire locker room has bought into the system and bought into each other.

“We all get along, we all like each other. It’s a difference when you have a team where a guy doesn’t like you, we all like each other. We all accept each other and what each other brings to the game. When you have a team like that, it’s easy to get along,” Thornwell told Basketball Insiders. “We don’t have to deal with egos and pride, we don’t have that type of issue here. You have the vets helping the young guys, the younger guys helping the older guys, it’s a team. You have some teams where it’s ‘these guys’ and ‘those guys,’ it’s not like that here. For us to win, we all have to be together, we all have to be on the same page.”

Thornwell’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season, but if all goes well, Los Angeles is a place he’d like to be for a long time. Regardless of what happens though, he’s going to use this summer as an opportunity to improve his game as best he can.

“I’m going into the summer working on everything I can. I feel like I can improve everything in my game, cause if I didn’t, I’d be playing,” Thornwell told Basketball Insiders. “So I feel like just getting better, that’s all, you’re not playing you get better, and then you’ll play.”

David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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