Marcus Thornton off the bounce against the Bobcats. (Photo: Steven Chea)

This has not been the easiest year for Marcus Thornton.  Adjusting to life as a sixth man after leading your team in scoring a season ago is a difficult transition.

The losing can’t make it any better.

But recently, Thornton has started to come along and find some consistency.  Over the last week or so, the Sacramento Kings guard has played some of his best basketball of the season.

“Just getting back to being me, man,” Thornton said after scoring 18 points in yesterday’s 119-83 win over the hapless Charlotte Bobcats. “Being me and not worrying about everything else. Just going out there and being me and playing my game.”

In his last four contests, Thornton has averaged 24.8 points game while posting a true-shooting percentage of 75.5 percent.  With the exception of Travis Outlaw, who appeared in just two of the Kings’ last four outings, no other player on Sacramento’s roster has shot the ball better than Thornton.

His hot shooting has coincided with a little more playing time.  For the season, he’s averaging just 24.3 minutes per contest.  But over the last four games, he’s averaged an extra four minutes.

After yesterday’s win, Kings coach Keith Smart noted that he’s started subbing Thornton into games earlier than usual. But according to the fourth-year guard, the extra minute and a half in the first quarter hasn’t been key to his recent success.  Instead, he’s credits steadier playing time as a major factor.

“It’s just me getting consistent minutes now,” said Thornton, who’s averaged 28.8 minutes per contest in his last four games. “Me actually being able to stay out there, playing through things.  Instead of (when) things go wrong, you don’t have to be (taken) out…

“I guess it’s just a trust factor now,” Thornton added.  ”I gained a little bit more trust and just try to keep it going.”

His coach believes the personnel accompanying him on the floor has something to do with his improved play, too.  Yesterday, Thornton first entered the game for John Salmons, which put him next to Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans on the perimeter.  Playing alongside strong ball-handlers, according to Smart, has helped jumpstart the 25-year-old guard’s offense.

Moving from starter to reserve takes a major attitude adjustment as well.  Some might suggest that the mental approach is different when coming off the bench, but Thornton doesn’t necessarily see it that way.  The Kings guard thinks there are three intangible reasons for his recent resurgence, one of which is improved patience.

“Just going out there and playing hard man,” he said.  ”Just going out there and trying to pick and choose my spots to go out there and be effective.  And my teammates are finding me too, so that helps.”

Thornton’s improved performance over the last week may not mean much.  Afterall, it has come too little too late in the midst of another losing season for the Kings.

But better late than never, no?

“I think he’s playing good basketball,” Smart said of Thornton. “Obviously, that was what I envisioned, that he would be able to play like that on our team and be able to give us the boost that we need in that second unit.”