Jason Thompson draws praise at Kings training camp

Jason Thompson scans the floor during a break in action against the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Jason Thompson is ready to compete for the Sacramento Kings starting power forward spot.  The seven-year veteran came into training camp in the best shape of his life and according to coach Michael Malone, he and veteran big man Reggie Evans are turning heads.

“Reggie Evans, 34 years old, (and) Jason Thompson, 28, been here for a long time, (are the) MVPs of the camp,” coach Michael Malone said following Tuesday’s practice.  “They both come in (with a) great mindset (and) in unbelievable shape.  But more importantly, just their leadership, the example they set – we have a lot of new guys and for Reggie and Jason to come in and play and work as hard as they have has really lifted our camp.”

For the second straight season, Thompson played in all 82 games for the Kings, but his minutes faded down the stretch.  After playing for five different coaches in his six seasons in the league, Thompson is ready for some continuity under Malone.  He has clearly recommitted himself to the game this summer in hopes of regaining his starting job alongside DeMarcus Cousins.

“You can tell he committed himself this offseason to coming back a better player,” Malone said.  “Believe it or not, he’s added a 3-point shot to his game.  He spent a lot of time on that.”

Thompson came out of Rider University with a nice jumper and solid range.  But as he progressed as a pro, he moved closer to the basket and all but abandoned his perimeter game.  For a team in need of better spacing, Thompson’s improved shooting touch is a welcome sight.

Evans is entering his 13th season in the NBA.  He has carved a niche out as a player who does the dirty work.  An elite rebounder and solid defender, Evans started 14 games last season for Sacramento after coming over with Jason Terry from the Nets.

Ramon Sessions adds a new layer to the passing game

The Sacramento Kings opened the 2013-14 season with point guards Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas on the roster.  But the December trade that brought Rudy Gay to Sacramento, also jettisoned Vasquez, leaving the Kings light in the backcourt.

That won’t be the case this season.  General manager Pete D’Alessandro added both Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions during a busy offseason.  They will join second-year guard Ray McCallum at the now-crowded point guard position.

“That’s huge in this league,” Sessions said of the Kings depth at the position.  “It’s a point guards league.  A lot of guys are playing two-point guard systems.  True point guards are huge, especially on a team like this, where you have a superstar that’s young, Rudy who’s a veteran (and) guys with a lot of potential.”

The point guard spot is a difficult position to learn on the fly.  You need to develop trust and chemistry with your teammates if you hope to find success.  Session believes that his experience playing for five teams (and the Bucks twice) over his seven-year career will aid in the process.

“For a point guard, it’s huge,” Sessions said of building chemistry with a new team.  “For me, I’m kind of used to it though.  I’ve been on a few teams now.  It’s one of those things that’s an easy transition for me because I’ve done it before.”

Nik Stauskas is learning to drive

Being a 20-year-old rookie isn’t exactly the easiest process.  And for Sacramento Kings rookie Nik Stauskas, there is the added element that he doesn’t have a drivers license, nor does he know how to drive a vehicle.

“I was actually supposed to get my permit today,” Stauskas said.  “But we rescheduled for tomorrow, so hopefully I pass my drivers test.”

Stauskas has never driven a car on the road.  He admitted to driving a bit in a parking lot once or twice, but up until now, he has made his way through life using public transportation or getting a ride from friends or family.  Once he gets his license, he intends to buy or lease a new Range Rover.

As for camp life, Stauskas is getting his sea legs.  Adjusting to the NBA speed, strength and size can be a difficult transition.

“I feel like our energy has been really high,” Stauskas said.  “Obviously, at this point, guys are a little tired, because we’ve been doing two-a-days and really getting after it.”

An elite shooter, Stauskas has the green light at all times from both his coaches and his teammates.

“I feel like I was maybe a little tentative coming in, but I’m starting to find my spots, starting to be more aggressive,” the former Michigan Wolverine said.  “The vets are getting on me, telling me to shoot more often.  For me, it’s just all about being confident and being aggressive.”

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".