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Thornton returns to NLEX for unfinished business

Al Thornton | File Photo

MANILA, Philippines -- NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez believes former NBA wingman Al Thornton’s second coming is an opportunity for the American import to complete his “unfinished business” in the PBA.

Fernandez credited the NBA veteran for carrying NLEX to the young franchise’s fifth place finish in the Commissioner’s Cup during the team’s maiden season last year.

The Road Warriors entered the playoff as the fourth seed, but the Meralco Bolts scored a resounding two-game sweep to put an end to NLEX’s run.

“Credit din kay Al dahil sa conference na ito (Commissioner’s Cup) last season, we placed fourth after the eliminations. It’s just that we lost in our quarterfinal series against Meralco, so this is some sort of an unfinished business for him,” Fernandez told on Wednesday.

The one-time PBA champion coach expects the 32-year-old Thornton to provide the outside shooting he was known.

“Sa offense namin, we already have Asi (Taulava) playing the five, and then, we now have Sean Anthony who played great in the Philippine Cup. Now we hope Al could fill up more points for the team on offense,” he added.

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The Clippers’ 14th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft averaged 30.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 block in over 42 minutes of play with NLEX last season.

The product of Florida State is a noted outside gunner, who dropped 50 points in a 96-90 win over Ginebra in Antipolo last year.

Fernandez said the Road Warriors are determined to bounce back strong in the Commissioner’s Cup, which kicks off on February 10, following the team’s early quarterfinal exit in the Smart bro-PBA Philippine Cup.

“We did fairly well naman sa Philippine Cup, pero natiyempo lang na yung last five games namin, mga solid teams ang nakatapat namin and we lost in the end sa GlobalPort and Ginebra,” recalled the NLEX mentor.

“If we just learned how to finish in the end, we probably would have earned a twice-to-beat edge in the playoffs.”

As the Road Warriors resume practice next week, Fernandez said their immediate goal is to work on improving their free throw shooting percentage, as well as do a better job on their individual defense.

“Kailangan din talaga naming i-improve yung free throw shooting namin kasi last conference, kami ang no. 1 at most-fouled team, but we’re just third to the last in percentage with 66 percent,” he said.

“And also, we need to improve on our individual defense dahil malaki masyado yung naibibigay naming mga penetration and kick-out passes.”

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