Pete D'Alessandro socializes with fans following day three of Sacramento Kings training camp. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

SANTA BARBARA – The mood?  Jovial.  Why?  Because the Sacramento Kings wrapped up day three of training camp in Santa Barbara with some fan friendly activities.  Below, some notes, quotes and observations from today’s practice.

  • More students turned out to Pavilion Gym Thursday than the previous two days thanks in large part to a fan friendly idea by Vivek Ranadivé.  The Kings majority owner chose two lucky UCSB students to compete in a 3-point contest against some of the Kings’ best 3-point shooters and DeMarcus Cousins.  Advisor to the chairman Chris Mullin also participated in the shootout and ended up stealing the show. You can see how by checking this post here.
  • The 3-point contest lightened the mood for those of us covering training camp.  But that lighthearted spirit hasn’t been foreign to the Kings during their time here in Santa Barbara according to Cousins.  “Honestly, we’ve been having fun since day one,” Cousins said.  “The energy is great.  The chemistry is coming along and I feel like we’re getting better each day.”
  • The battle between Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez has received heavy play through the first few days of camp.  But there’s perhaps more on the line for the players competing for a spot at power forward.  When asked, Kings power forward Carl Landry admitted that the battle has gotten a bit feisty through the first five practices. “We got guys at that power forward position that are unselfish, that’s gonna go out there and compete,” Landry said.  “JT, Chuck, Patrick, myself, we’ve been going out there, just playing hard and not looking for any individual award, but we’re looking to do whatever we can to help this team.  And we’re going out there and battling, just trying to do the best we can.”
  • Landry on the atmosphere through the first three days of camp: “The atmosphere has been good.  We’re learning.  We’re taking film session by film session, practice by practice.  But we’re getting better and we’re competing and that’s what you want in training camp.”
  • Marcus Thornton is excited for the opportunity to get back in the starting lineup.  Though he’s likely the favorite to start at two-guard, Thornton knows that he’ll have to earn it.  “It’s been like that since the end of the season,” Thornton said of his enthusiasm to reclaim his starting role with the Kings.  “So ready to get back out there and prove myself once again.  This is my fifth year now, so I’ve been doing it for five years now and I’m ready to do it again.”
  • Thornton is still getting used to his new reputation as one of the team’s elder statesmen.  But as a veteran, the fifth-year guard is also enjoying a new role as mentor to rookie Ben McLemore.  “Ben is a sponge,” Thornton said.  “He’s asking questions – things I didn’t do my rookie year.  For him to have a heads up already – asking questions, getting to know the plays.  If he don’t know, he’ll come to the side and ask me, so that’s a plus for Ben.  The sky’s the limit for him.”
  • In order to win back his starting job, Thornton will have to show an improved commitment to defense.  Despite his deficiencies on that side of the floor, Thornton has been good at disrupting passing lanes throughout his career.  In addition to forcing turnovers, head coach Michael Malone is counting on him to track the ball better on defense.  “As the ball moves, you move,” Thornton said of one of the things Malone is asking him to do defensively this year.  “He’s been telling me that, telling all of us that since day one.”
  • In addition to Ranadivé, a number of members of the Kings braintrust made appearances in Santa Barbara today.  Minority owner and Kings legend Mitch Richmond was in attendance as was director of player personnel Shareef Abdur-Rahim.  Former UCLA head coach Ben Howland was also spotted in the gym and chatted with coach Malone following practice.  Howland’s presence may seem a bit odd, but he did coach new forward Luc Mbah a Moute for three seasons at Westwood several years ago.  Fellow co-owner Mark Mastrov also made the trip down from the bay area, bringing  along his wife and kids to enjoy the experience.  After the gym cleared out following the 3-point contest, Kings player development coaches worked on drills with Mastrov’s oldest son and daughter.
  • After two days of two-a-days, the Kings held just one, three-hour full contact practice Thursday.  No word yet on if the team will be holding any more two-a-days during their stay in Santa Barbara.