Keith Smart optimistic about Thursday return for Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton lands awkwardly on the foot of Jason Terry. (Photo: Steven Chea)On the heels of Tyreke Evans‘ return to the Sacramento Kings’ lineup, there’s optimism that another key cog in the Kings’ rotation will return sooner rather than later.

“I think he’s going to be ready to go,” said Kings’ coach Keith Smart yesterday of Marcus Thornton, who has missed the last five games with a sprained left ankle.  “Based on what he did today and the biggest thing now is in the morning.  What happens and how it responds to real work to where you have to change directions and things like that.”

Thornton has been sidelined after painfully rolling his ankle in the third quarter of the Kings’ 118-96 routing of the Boston Celtics 11 days ago.  But after spending the majority of his team’s ensuing four-game road trip in a walking boot, he engaged in his first full practice yesterday.

“All the restrictions were off on him today, so it was good,” Smart told a scrum a reporters.  “He got on the floor.  We did some really nice work today.”

Until yesterday, the Kings training staff had kept Thornton’s workload light.  He sat out all five-on-five and heavy movement drills in the team’s brief practice in Brooklyn.  According to Smart, most of his work consisted of “straight-line running.”

The rest has seemed to pay off for Thornton in his recovery.  However, the time off has set the fourth-year guard back in terms of conditioning.

“Obviously, for he and Tyreke, their cardio is not near where it needs to be,” Smart said.  “So you try to push through it a little bit, along with the guys who’ve been playing minutes and stuff like that.  But both of them did a good job today.”

Like Evans before his injury, Thornton was playing some of his best basketball of the season prior to his.  After leaving the team for three games in mid-December to tend to family matters, Thornton came back refocused.  In five contests before the Celtics’ game, the 25-year-old guard averaged 15.2 points on 44.4 percent shooting from the field and 40.6 percent shooting from 3-point land in 28.2 minutes.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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About: 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.