Sindarius Thornwell: «I will try to get some of my NBA friends to come to the game in Saratov»

Sindarius Thornwell: «I will try to get some of my NBA friends to come to the game in Saratov»

Sindarius Thornwell is Avtodor newcomer and one of the VTB League most famous newcomers this offseason gave an interview to our website.

The American guard spoke about his impressions of Russia, playing in the National Basketball Association, and his goals.

– Sindarius, you played your last official game almost a year ago – on November 22, 2022. Tell us why you have not been on the floor for so long?
– I had a pretty serious injury and realized that if I wanted to get back to my level, I did not need to force my return. I needed to make sure that my body was fully ready for basketball. That is why the recovery from the injury was not so fast.

– When did the understand that you were ready to play again?
– Sometime in May, that is when I got back on the floor and started playing basketball again. And although I have not really played official games since November last year, I am in good shape now.

– You chose Avtodor as the continuation of your career. How did you find the Saratov team?
– My agent suggested me to consider this option. I thought it was a good chance to prove myself at a high level.

– Did you know anything about the VTB United League and the teams before signing with Avtodor?
– Of course, I know some teams pretty well, I know the League level, it is very high. And I have a lot of friends who played in Russia, so I had a good understanding of where I was going, even though I had not visited Russia before. Moreover, I could have been in the VTB United League last year, and I was close to signing a contract with Lokomotiv Kuban, but in the end I went to play in Turkey.

– By the way, one of your friends and teammate from South Carolina University Michael Carrera started his pro career in Saratov.
– Really? I honestly did not know that. Well, I will be sure to call Mike after this interview.

– You said you have never been to Russia before. Tell us about your first impression of the country.
– I have not been here that long, only 2-3 weeks, but I feel very comfortable. Kind people, no bad attitudes because you are American. Believe me, what is written in our American media, all this propaganda, and how the situation is in reality are completely different things. Of course, before I went to Russia, there were people who told me, “You don’t have to go there.” But let’s face it – what percentage of all the people in South Carolina, where I am from, have been to Russia at least once? I don’t think it is even 1%. So do not trust what is written in the press and said on TV, they have no idea what information they are giving to people.

– Let’s talk about your NBA career. What’s the most memorable moment from your four seasons in the league?
– I think there have been a few. First of all, it is Draft Night, when you realize that your dream has become a reality. The first game, beating the Lakers in a sold-out Staples Center. The first appearance in the starting five was a surprise. Doc Rivers came up to me before the game against Oklahoma, where Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook were playing at the time, and said, “Gallinari is out, you are in the starting lineup tonight. I cannot tell you the emotions I felt at that time. And every game against LeBron James of course. He has been my idol since I was a kid, and it is hard to describe the feelings you get when you go out to play against him.

– You did not manage to play together with LeBron, but in your career you had a lot of star teammates. Who have you become friends with the most?
– I cannot name one or two players, because I have actually had a good relationship with all of my teammates. I am from the southern part of the USA, from South Carolina, we easily find common language with other people, we are more companionable. In the Clippers quickly became friends with Montrez Harrell, spent a lot of time together with Lou Williams, and Shay Gilges-Alexander in his debut season I regularly picked up from home by car, because he did not have a driving license, I had to give him a few driving lessons. In New Orleans, I had good relationships with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, I spent a short time in Orlando, but I still have friends there too.

– A few years ago John Stockton came to Saratov to watch his son David play, Drew Gordon was very active in trying to bring his brother Aaron Gordon. Will you invite any of your friends to Avtodor game?
– Why not? I realize that a lot of people will still be in the season. But I will definitely try to convince someone to come to Russia. For example, Montrez Harrell is currently without a team. If he can attend a game in Saratov, I will be very happy. In turn, I will do everything I can to get him here.

– One can’t help asking – the most valuable advice you have gotten from such a star friends?
– Basketball is first and foremost a business. When money and contracts are involved in the game, it is a business. And no other way around it. It is a shame that not everyone understands this, condemning players for moving to another team or moving to another country. But I treat basketball like a job. And I’m not the only one – remember Nikola Jokic’s words after the NBA Finals. Immediately after the win, he said he had done his job and wanted to go home. I understand him perfectly.

– European basketball is also a big area for business. What is the main difference between American basketball and European basketball?
– In America, there is a lot of emphasis on individual talent, which makes basketball more selfish. If you are a star, you are allowed a lot of things, you take the ball and decide the game outcome in important moments. Do not forget that the NBA is a league of players, they have a huge impact on the league. In Europe it is different, here even the most star player will not have the privileges that NBA stars have, you have to be part of the team and follow the coach’s game plan.

– After that, one can’t help but ask the most pressing question of the last few days: can NBA champions call themselves World Champions?
– Of course! NBA is not only the highest level of basketball, but it is also a league that has become very crowded with overseas players. Take the top-5 strongest players in the NBA. Jokic, Giannis, Doncic will definitely be there, but whether an American player will make it is still a question. That is why I believe that in a championship that brings together the strongest players from all over the world, the best team can safely be called the best in the world.

– But the U.S. national team failed to become the best in the world. Did you watch the last World Cup?
– I watched it attentively, and I do not understand the negativity about the U.S. national team performance. Let’s imagine that all the world teams go to an international tournament and play with  NBA rules instead of FIBA rules: the game will last 48 minutes, the goaltending rules will change, your center will not be able to stand in the paint for 3 seconds, the double-dribble rule will change and many other things. Would there be a similar result in such a case? I highly doubt it. Players on other national teams have been playing under FIBA rules their entire careers and, of course, have a slight advantage. Even those who play in the NBA, in most cases, started playing basketball in their home country. Moreover, we should not forget that the U.S. national team was not the strongest team. LeBron, Steph, Durant, Davis and other players we might see at next year’s Olympics did not play.

– Do you think LeBron James will still go to the Olympics at age 40?
– He said that is his goal at the moment, there is no reason not to believe him. Moreover, look at the shape he is in right now. A man at the age of 39 continues to be among the best players in the world, it does not matter if it it Top 5 or Top 10, but it is a unique case.

– Tell us about your goals for the near future.
– My goal is to be consistent in my performance, which will hopefully lead to one day being able to return to the National Basketball Association again. In the meantime, I want to play well for Avtodor.