Clippers have high expectations for ThompkinsBy Michael Martinez
If you don't count timeouts or pregame warm-ups, rookie Trey Thompkins didn't get off the Clippers bench Sunday night in Oakland.
In most cases, it might be a worrisome development: A second-round draft pick sits during his team's season opener, putting his immediate future in doubt.
But there's really no reason for concern. Thompkins' time will come.
Granted, he saw only 27 minutes in two preseason games against the Lakers, but they were enough to confirm the team's belief that Thompkins can make a contribution this season. He was a combined 6 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and had nine rebounds and 15 points.
Although the Clippers already have a big man with an outside scoring touch in 6-foot-9 veteran Brian Cook, the 6-10 Thompkins gives them another viable scorer who can come off the bench.
Coach Vinny Del Negro has been complimentary of Thompkins, but finding ways to use his young players — fellow rookie Travis Leslie, Thompkins' teammate at Georgia, is injured — won't be easy.
Before the Clippers' 105-86 season-opening win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas, Del Negro wasn't able to say how much the rookies would play, at least in the early going.
"Those are tough questions to answer," he said, "just because we haven't been together that long and we're still trying to mold the team."
Thompkins, who averaged 15.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in three years at Georgia, said he understands he needs to make the most of his opportunities whenever they come.
"I want to come in and do the most that I can for the team as fast as I can," he said. "I understand we've been in a lockout, so the coach needs as much production as fast as possible. . . . I've put in the extra work to make sure he understands that I'm on board with the team and the scheme that we're playing."
Thompkins, 21, was picked 37th overall in the 2011 draft, which surprised a number of college experts, who believed his talent warranted a higher selection.
"I think we stole Trey Thompkins in this draft," Neil Olshey, the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations, said recently. "He's been one of the best basketball players in this camp so far from a basketball skills standpoint."
Thompkins, however, wondered if maybe he should have stayed in school. When owners locked out players, resulting in a delayed start to the season and a shortened 66-game schedule, Thompkins said he had second thoughts about leaving after his junior season.
"Yeah, because I was watching my old teammates (play) and hearing my friends talking about how they were doing," he said. "But it wasn't too hard because I understood I was fulfilling my dream, something I wanted to do for years. Now I get to do it."
But being in an NBA uniform and playing in an NBA game are two different things. Thompkins is a Clipper; he's waiting for his chance to get on the floor.
If nothing else, his first couple of weeks have been an easy transition. He's on a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups. What could be better?
"Our nucleus of guys and the vets we have love to have a good time," he said. "We've always kept it positive, and that's all I've seen."