They earned spots in the Clippers’ rotation last season as rookies, both Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans carving out their niche as defense-oriented guards, their playing time increasing as injuries to teammates mounted.
Now, the two second-round draft picks are almost afterthoughts because the Clippers brought in their backcourt of the future, 2018 first-round picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson.
But rather than run away from the challenge, both Thornwell and Evans have embraced what’s before them.
Their task grows even more difficult because of the Clippers’ eight-guard logjam: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Gilgeous-Alexander, Robinson, Milos Teodosic, Thornwell and Evans.
Thornwell, who had 22 points in the Clippers’ 88-78 win over Sacramento Sunday night in the NBA Summer League at Cox Pavilion, said his first thought when Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson were acquired was, “welcome to the team.”
After playing in 73 games last season for the Clippers and averaging 3.9 points in 15.6 minutes per game, Thornwell said he’s ready to face the competition.
“We still got to play. I ain’t worried about nothing,” Thornwell said. “In this game, you can’t worry about nobody else. You can’t come in and worry about what the next man got going on and what the next man is doing. As long as you take care of your business and you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, that’s all you can do.”
Evans played in 48 games last season for the Clippers, averaging 4.8 points and 2.1 assists in 16.2 minutes per game. He, too, is ready for what’s ahead.
“I just got to compete,” Evans, who had 10 points against the Kings, said. “This is what this game is. You got to come out and just compete, play hard and do whatever you need to do for your team. We got to compete. May the best man win.”
The emphasis for Thornwell this summer was slimming down his 6-foot-5, 215-pound body and improving his three-point shooting.
His defense was solid all season, allowing the Clippers to put Thornwell on players such as Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Cleveland’s LeBron James.
“That’s the one that kind of like kept me off the court sometimes,” Thornwell, who was three for six from three-point range against the Kings, said about his three-point shooting. “There were probably times where we probably needed a stop, but they couldn’t put me out there because I was a liability on the offensive end. They probably didn’t have confidence in me to hit the shot consistently. This summer, I’m trying to prove them wrong.”
Evans’ season ended with the 6-foot point guard having a core muscle procedure. He said all is well on that front.
His full-court pressure defense on a player such as Houston’s James Harden allowed Evans to play more last season.
Now, it’s about getting his offense in gear after shooting just 35.2% from the field and 27.8% from three-point range last season.
“I worked on just catching and shooting,” Evans said. “I worked on passing and cutting to get my shot off. They also want me to be more vocal and keep getting my teammates involved and getting them open shots.”
Robinson didn’t play against the Kings. But he said his left knee is fine and he will play Monday night against the Rockets at Thomas & Mack Center … Gilgeous-Alexander had 21 points and eight rebounds against the Kings.