Has it really been four years since the Sacramento Kings drafted Jason Thompson with the 12th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft?
In the beginning, Thompson was supposed to anchor the Kings frontline alongside another young big man in Spencer Hawes. The “Shock and Hawes” experiment was short lived. The Kings continued their losing ways. An unhappy Hawes was shipped to Philly and Thompson was left to ride the Kings’ coaching carousel alone.
It appears that the carousel has stopped for a while, but here Thompson stands. Fresh off a strong finish that yielded him a new five-year contract, he has found some long-term stability in coach Keith Smart’s rotation.
“It’s kind of like a monkey off your back,” Thompson said of his new deal with the Kings. “I’m just blessed to be here. Blessed to be in a situation where I can still be in the league for 10-plus years.”
Thompson is back in camp, ready for another Kings season and like always, he is in tremendous shape. During the off-season, he worked to increase muscle and trim down his body fat. While Smart isn’t going to just hand him the starting power forward spot, Thompson feels comfortable that his coach knows his worth.
“I know I finished the season on the right note and as long as I’m in the right situation with the team, then I can have that same play that I had at the end of the year,” Thompson said during media day.
Thompson has been a workhorse for the Kings throughout his first four seasons, missing a total of 16 games. While he has remained relatively healthy, his playing time has been all over the board and so has his production.
“I want to be consistent throughout the year,” Thompson said. “Stay injury free and the times when I was playing well, we were getting wins too.”
After four seasons of losing basketball, Thompson, like many of his teammates, is ready to make a move in the standings. A new focus has been put on making the playoffs and almost to a man, the message is clear – the Kings are tired of coming up short.
“We’re trying to head in the right direction. If a guy’s mindset isn’t to be in the playoffs, then they shouldn’t be wearing a jersey,” Thompson said bluntly.
Thompson should start the season alongside third-year big man DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings struggled mightily last season when both of their starting big men sat on the bench together, but with the improved health of veteran Chuck Hayes and the addition of rookie Thomas Robinson, Smart should have a more flexibility this season.
Robinson is green and probably a year away from really pushing Thompson for his starting job, but that battle is coming. If Thompson can show consistency and continue to refine his game, he will earn every dollar of that new five-year deal.