Find out how No. 23 adjusted to a reserve role and helped lead the Kings to victory. Plus, learn how veterans are putting their younger teammates in position to shine.
For only the fifth time in 82 total games since joining the Kings – the first since March 2, 2011 – Marcus Thornton came off the bench, providing an instant spark in Sacramento’s Monday night victory.
“(Marcus) came in the game, got other guys involved and still was able to do what he wanted to do – I like what he did last night,” said Kings Head Coach Keith Smart following Tuesday’s practice. “A situation like that could arise somewhere (during) 82 games, and I thought he did the right thing he needed in that moment.”
In order to readjust to a sixth man role he hadn’t played in over a year-and-a-half, No. 23 focused on keeping himself ready on the sidelines during the opening quarter.
“I hadn’t done that in a while, so I had to get my mojo while I was on the bench – moving around, cheering, supporting the team to get things going,” he said. “As you could see, when I first came into the game, I couldn’t even control the ball.”
Once he found his groove, the hot-shooting guard provided a lift for Sacramento, pouring in a game-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 from long range), to go along with a team-leading three steals and two assists.
“I feel like I can make a play, either for myself or for my teammates in that situation,” says Thornton, deflecting the attention away from his individual accolades and to Sacramento’s defensive performance. “We’re all trying to win the game.”
When Portland mounted a second-half comeback, however, Thornton took it upon himself to ensure the Kings would come out victorious, delivering timely buckets and his customary heroics in crunch time.
“(The Blazers) found a couple plays (and) started gaining momentum,” said the Louisiana State product postgame. “I looked at Coach and I told Coach, ‘They (aren’t) coming back.’ He said, ‘Turn it up – do what you do.’ So I just went out there and played – I’m grateful the shots went down.”
Coming off the bench isn’t entirely unfamiliar to Thornton, who has served as an integral backup in more games (106) than he’s started (91) over the course of his career. On Feb. 22, 2010, the shooting guard set the Hornets’ franchise single-game rookie scoring record, pouring in a then-career-high 37 points in 31 minutes of action as a reserve.
“You have to get mentally prepared coming off the bench,” explains Thornton. “Because you’re not in the game, you don’t know how the flow of the game is going.”
While Thornton is open to any position the coaching staff has in store for him – revealing he’d take pride in being a prolific game-changer as a sixth man – Smart has yet to disclose player roles for the regular season.
“I thought in that game, (with) him coming off the bench, he came in with the right spirit, but that’s not where he’s going to be,” says the Kings leader, adding that he’s still searching for the best combination of players to have on the court.
– After not seeing any court time in Sacramento’s preseason opener, Francisco Garcia didn’t miss a beat en route to a spectacular shooting display over the weekend.
“Francisco had an incredible practice on Saturday – I mean, the guy was on fire,” said Smart. “As a veteran, the guy just works his tail off … You want guys like that to communicate their approach – ‘Even if I’m not playing, I’m going to still work hard, because my time (could come) quickly.’”
Garcia received his opportunity Monday and made the most of his 20 minutes of action, continuing to light up the scoreboard by recording six points on two key three-pointers and adding two assists and two rebounds.
“(My mindset is) just wait for my time (and when) I go out there, play the right (style of) basketball,” says No. 32. “My teammates have trust in me – (I’ll) hit some shots, bring some energy defensively and run the floor hard. I’ve been here for a long time – we just want to win. That’s all.”
Smart has been pleased with the eighth-year veteran’s commitment and work ethic, praising “El Flaco” for his professionalism and readiness.
“I said to the guys the other day, ‘I hope you guys can understand … some of these veteran guys we have, who’ve been stars in our league, are now moving over for the most part and allowing you young guys to play,’” says Smart. “(Garcia) kept himself ready with his workouts – all the time, he does that – and eventually got a chance to get in the game and made the shots right away.”
– On Tuesday, Travis Outlaw one-upped many of his teammates who frequently hold light-spirited, three-point and half-court shooting competitions after practices. No. 25 picked up a basketball with one hand and heaved it the length of the court, banking-in an amazing full-court shot on his lone attempt.
– The Kings host their final home preseason game Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Golden State Warriors. To get tix, Click Here.
Would you like to see Marcus Thornton start or serve as a vital sixth man this season?