OK, if they had to win that one and hamstring the chances of falling behind the Grizzlies in the ping pong ball derby, that was a good way to do it. 39 points for Al Thornton. His career high. Clippers season high. All time Clipper rookie high (tied with Terry Cummings and Tom Chambers, two pretty damn good players). And I had the nerve to be worrying about the dude maybe hitting the rookie wall. Guess not. Dude even had 5 steals.
And the other guy I've been missing, one Chris Kaman, was K2 again. 10 points (on 5 for 7 shooting), 15 rebounds and 4 blocks in a mere 28 minutes. If he hadn't been in foul trouble, no telling how many rebounds he would have grabbed. He did miss a bunny he should have dunked (when will he learn?), but other than that (and the foul trouble, I guess), he was perfect. There's nothing more important going into next season than having Thornton and Kaman prove they're not flukes. So I'll suffer through the win to see them have great games.
Now, I know that Memphis has one of the worst defenses in the league. But four of the five Clipper starters had great games, and Cat Mobley had a good game going 6 for 11. Kaman and Thornton we've already discussed. Corey Maggete scored 26 points, to go with 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, while Brevin Knight had a 16/11 double-double in points and assists. So in a single game, Memphis gave up:
- The Clipper franchise rookie high in points for Al Thornton
- A season high in points for Brevin Knight
- One shy of the Clippers' team season high in assists for Brevin
- The most rebounds Chris Kaman's had in 6 weeks
Of course, the Clippers needed their starters to play well, because they got almost nothing from their bench. Eight points total, and only Josh Powell scratched before garbage time. (Speaking of which, doesn't Nick Fazekas need to be getting some non-garbage minutes? I mean, the guy's shooting 55% as a Clipper, and 19 for 29 (65%) in his last 8 games, not too mention that he rebounds well when he's in there also. Why not play him a little?)
At any rate, watching Thornton and Kaman dominate, and knowing that Elton Brand will be back any game now, is enough to make a Citizen almost giddy.
I have a couple of tangents, if you'll indulge me. The mention of Chambers and Cummings is nostalgic of course. Neither is associated with the Clippers, despite the fact that they were both Clipper draft picks. Chambers went on to make four all star teams, one with Seattle and three with the Suns. Cummings spent five seasons in Milwaukee, where he was a two time all star. In 1982-83 in San Diego, Chambers (23) and Cummings (21) were Clipper teammates. Remember that 21 was ridiculously young for an NBA player in 1982. Cummings averaged 23.7 points per game in that, his rookie season, and Chambers averaged 17.6 in his second campaign. They could have been a devastating forward tandem for the better part of the 80's. And the Clippers added Norm Nixon the very next season, without touching either of their young forwards. Imagine those two guys with Norm Nixon at the point! Instead, Chambers was gone before Nixon arrived, and Cummings a season later. Sure, the Clippers got some stuff back - James Donaldson and the pick that became Michael Cage came from Seattle for Chambers, Marques Johnson was the centerpiece of the Cummings trade. But still - wasn't it obvious what they had? The irony of course was that the Clippers dealt Cummings after he was diagnosed with a heart condition - afraid he'd be unable to play basketball, they traded for Marques Johnson - who blew out his knee after two seasons with the club. Ah, the Clippers. Good times.
I'll leave you with this. Some of you may recall that I was a KJ-Chambers Suns fan. In fact, that team got me hooked on underdogs, and is therefore partially responsible for me being a Clippers' fan today. Tommy C doesn't come up in conversation around here much these days, but since he now shares a page in the record books with Thornton, it gives me a chance to talk about something else they have in common.
People forget that Tom Chambers was an athletic freak. He was the first white participant in the NBA Slam Dunk contest back in 1987. And his dunk over Mark Jackson is far and away the most amazing in game dunk I've ever seen in the NBA (Carter's Olympics dunk over Frederic Weis is the only one that compares, but of course that's not from an NBA game).
Now, as I mentioned, Chambers was a great athlete - an amazing jumper. But something magical happened on that dunk - somehow he hit Jackson at the right angle, and I guess Jackson was just strong enough, but instead of losing momentum and descending, as you would expect when a jumper hits something, Chambers goes HIGHER. It's like he's a triple jumper, and Jackson is just his first stop. Anyway, he's literally looking down at the rim, putting both hands all the way through the rim, and he could have dunked that ball if the basket had been another 5 feet away. Like I said, I was a Suns fan at the time, and I watched that game, and I kept telling people "He jumped OVER the guy!" But no one believed me. This was like 1989 or something, and no one really saw that dunk if they didn't watch the game. Dunk highlights on SportsCenter weren't quite so ubiquitous back then. Thank FSM for YouTube.
And just to close the loop, here's the other reason Al Thornton is like Tom Chambers.