Despite backcourt logjam, Sacramento Kings veteran guards optimistic about team’s future

Marcus Thornton at NBA Summer League. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

LAS VEGAS – When it comes to the Kings’ future in Sacramento, there will be no more wondering “will they or won’t they?”.  With new ownership in place, questions like that can finally be tossed out the window.

The stability is a breath of fresh air for the players.  They understand and acknowledge the business side of basketball, but relocation is not an issue commonly dealt with by the average NBAer.  To finally have some security in terms of the franchise’s home next year and beyond has Kings players like Marcus Thornton optimistic about the future.

“To have the stability that we have now, to know that we’re not going anywhere for a while,” Thornton said to reporters following the Kings’ first contest of the Las Vegas Summer League on Saturday.  “We can just focus on basketball and not worry about all the outside stuff (and that) is gonna be great for us.”

Thornton spent Saturday and Sunday getting to know the members of the Kings new braintrust.  He has an existing relationship with head coach Michael Malone, who coached Thornton for half a season in New Orleans before the Kings guard was dealt to Sacramento.  The 26-year-old guard had nothing but good things to say about Malone, especially touting his new head coach’s knowledge of basketball’s X’s and O’s.

Thornton also expressed optimism in the Kings’ recent moves.  Tyreke Evans may be gone, but it perhaps creates a new opportunity for the sixth-year veteran to regain his position as the team’s starting shooting guard.  Thornton may have competition in the form of rookie Ben McLemore, this year’s seventh overall pick.  However, Thornton won’t let that stop him from offering guidance to his new teammate in anyway he can.

“I had been watching him in college,” Thornton said of McLemore.  “I know he can shoot the ball, he can flat out score.  So I’m excited to get things going with him now.”

Like Thornton, Isaiah Thomas expects to face competition for his spot in the Kings’ rotation.  But this is nothing new for the third-year player, who arrived in Las Vegas yesterday.  As an undersized, 5’9 point guard, he knows that he must continue to prove skeptics wrong about his upside.

“It’s just another battle,” Thomas said of the Kings depth at point guard after practicing with the team’s summer league roster yesterday.  “If the best man may win the position, I mean that’s how I feel.”

That isn’t to say that Thomas isn’t excited about the Kings’ newest additions.  Thomas was very complimentary of second-round pick Ray McCallum, who the 24-year-old guard worked out with a few times leading up to this year’s draft.

He also praised  Greivis Vasquez, who the Kings acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans for Tyreke Evans.  Thomas likes the intensity Vasquez brings to the court and believes that will rub off on the rest of the team.

“You could tell he’s a leader,” Thomas said of his impressions of Vasquez based on past competitions against him.  “He’s just a guy that’s just gonna fight.  Fight for his position, fight to win and he’s not gonna give up.  That’s what you need to succeed in this league.  You need fighters that just got that will to win and that heart and that desire to just overcome everything.”

As far his relationship with the Kings’ new braintrust, Thomas has been in constant contact with Malone since the 42-year-old officially took the job in June.  However, yesterday’s practice was Thomas’ first glimpse into what life will be like under his new head coach and he liked what he saw.  Thomas lauded how focused Malone and his staff conducted Sunday’s workout session.

“I mean everybody’s focused in, everybody’s working hard,” Thomas said.  “Nobody’s on the sideline playing around.  Nobody’s talking while the coach is talking.  It reminds me of my college basketball days back at the University of Washington.  Everybody’s dialed in and ready to work.”

Even though they’ll have to prove themselves yet again to another new coach and brand new regime, Thomas and Thornton are eager to get things started.  If their presence in Las Vegas is any indication, there’s no questioning their commitment to being part of Vivek Ranadivé’s new vision for the Sacramento Kings.

Thornton and Thomas on the departure of Tyreke Evans

By acquiring Greivis Vasquez, the Kings agreed to part ways with Tyreke Evans.  Considering Evans’ versatile talents, both Thornton and Thomas were surprised to see their longtime teammate exit the franchise.

“I definitely didn’t think he was going,” Thomas said of Evans.  “And I had a feeling that he wanted to stay.  Tyreke, this is the only city’s he’s been in, the only team he’s been on so I felt like he wanted to stay.  But I mean, he had to do what’s best for himself and what’s best for his family and I’m all for it.”

Thornton will miss the camaraderie of having Evans in the Kings’ locker room.  The 26-year-old guard noted that he and Evans formed a close friendship after he joined the franchise midway through the 2010-11 season.

“It’s always hurts to see someone get traded,” Thornton said. “But it is a business and I think he’ll do well down there in New Orleans.”

Vivek Ranadivé receiving congrats for saving the Kings

Following Carl Landry’s contract signing this morning at the Mandarin Hotel, the Kings majority owner told media that he has been receiving praise all around Las Vegas for stepping up to preserve the team’s future in Sacramento.

I just want people of Sacramento and fans to know that there’s great love and affection and people were cheering for the underdog the whole time.  Yesterday, I was walking around the Wynn hotel and Patrick Ewing came up to me and said congratulations.  So there is just widespread happiness that this team stayed in Sacramento.  The fans of Sacramento are a legend throughout the NBA and I’ve just been (receiving) great warmth, great affection, by the NBA community.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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