Marcus Thornton Hopes To Remain With Celtics Through Trade Deadline
BOSTON (CBS) - In the closing moments of the Celtics' matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, Brad Stevens drew some second guesses from Boston fans for one of the first times this season.
The Celtics were in the midst of a brutal fourth game in five nights, but had fought back admirably in the fourth quarter against the upstart Bucks, reducing a double-digit lead by the hosts to just three points in the game's final minute.
Many observers, including yours truly, wondered aloud why Marcus Thornton, arguably Boston's most dangerous shooter, was not in the game for the team's final offensive possession. Instead, Stevens went with a number of mediocre jump shooters in his final five, including Jae Crowder (33 percent 3-point shooter). Crowder missed a desperate game-tying shot from the right corner as time expired.
With the Celtics in the midst of a playoff race in the lowly Eastern Conference and still trying to win games, the question seemed fair: Why was Boston's best 3-point shooter (Thornton is hitting 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers on the season) glued to the bench? Stevens surely had his reasons for the late-game lineup but the fact Bostonians are pining for Thornton to play in such a crucial spot signifies the admirable job the 27-year-old has done this season in a difficult situation.
You see, when the Celtics traded for Thornton this past summer in a three-team trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, taking on the 6-foot-4 guard was supposed to be trade filler. Danny Ainge acquired a young prospect in Tyler Zeller as well a future-first round pick from Cleveland just for agreeing to take Thornton and his bloated salary ($8.6 million) in the deal.
To most, Thornton was an afterthought for this season, likely to be buried on the bench behind other young guards like Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Evan Turner, as the team waited for his sizable deal to expire this summer.
Instead, Thornton has proved to be one of the most consistent players on the roster over the first 50 games of the year. The former Brooklyn Net is playing a career-low 16.2 minutes per game, but shooting a scorching 40 percent from downtown, good enough for 20th in the NBA.
His production has also improved since returning from a calf injury that sidelined for 11 games back in December, helping him improve a floundering Boston offense. Thornton has scored in double figures in eight of the past 15 games, including five of the past seven, as the Celtics have climbed back into the playoff hunt.
The stellar production would seemingly make the bench spark plug a trade candidate before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, but getting moved to his fifth team in six NBA seasons is not something the young guard is looking for.
"I would like to stay here," Thornton said last week. "Who wouldn't? We've got a good thing going. But like I said, it's not controllable. I can't control it. So whatever happens, happens."
Thornton's large salary make him a tough candidate to find a deal for, so the veteran guard may get his wish, as he continues to help Boston's young roster progress.
"It's been great. It's still not over yet," Thornton warned. "Feb. 19 is still a long time from now, so we'll see how that goes, too. For the time being, everybody's just here playing. Off the court we're great with each other, so that helps too."
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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