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In his fifth year, Jason Thompson proves to be a model of consistency

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In a finally nearly filled Sleep Train Arena on Friday evening, the Sacramento Kings beat the visiting Orlando Magic 91-82 to win two games in a row for only the second time this frustrating season.

DeMarcus Cousins had a big night scoring 17 points, grabbing 14 boards and had three steals, two blocks and four assists. Not a bad night for the Kings’ big man. Four other players scored in double figures including Isaiah Thomas (17), Jimmer Fredette (15), Jason Thompson (12) and Aaron Brooks (11).

So far in the early going of the 2012-13 campaign, the Kings have not got the engine humming smoothly down the tracks.

The early culprits were trying to find the right combo at guard, the suspensions to both Cousins and Thomas Robinson and now the M.I.A. Tyreke Evans.

Evans has missed three of the last four games with a sore right knee, which he thinks he picked up when he banged knees against Andrei Kirilenko of the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 27. Evans had an MRI prior to the game on Friday with results coming back negative – no damage.

With all that is seemingly wrong with the Kings, the one constant bright spot is Jason Thompson.

Thompson has been a model of consistency early this season. Considering the team rarely runs plays his way, his numbers are very satisfying.

In 18 games, Thompson is averaging 11.1 points per game, 1.1 blocks, 7.2 rebounds and is shooting at a .506 clip. In 11 of the 18 games, he has scored in double figures. In three of the six wins he has nine or more rebounds also.

J.T., as he’s affectionately known, is all hustle. He’s the first one down the floor on a fast break. He often takes the ball out to start a possession and still not the last one down the floor and setting up for offense.

For those watching closely, and I have since I’ve been a big fan of him since he joined the team five years ago, even though he has been asked to do and has been used in so many different ways by his many different coaches, he still finds a way to improve each and every year.

The numbers may not show it just yet this season, but Thompson is really starting to reach his true potential.

“I think that it (his game) is coming along,” Thompson said. “I think that I can even be better. I think that I am my toughest critic. So I’m never satisfied at what is going on. The thing is to be consistent and stay healthy. I think I can still do more on the team like stay out of foul trouble and even take some more shots when I have them.”

Fouling out is a facet of the game in which Thompson has certainly improved. He has only gotten tagged with four fouls or more four times this season and only once has he fouled out.

“I’m just trying to improve and making sure that as much as I’m improving, that we can get some wins out of it as well.”

In the search for a vocal team leader, the names Evans and Cousins come up all the time. Sure, it’d be great if either of those guys would step to the plate and become the leader we as fans think they could become. But Evans may be too quiet of a guy and Cousins may not yet be consistent enough.

On the other hand, you’ve got guys like Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons that either have the experience or have been on a playoff contender.

In Brooks and Salmons, both guys are more the quiet guys; the ones that show it on the court and not speak it in the locker room. In Garcia and Hayes, neither guy gets enough playing time to be considered a force to reckon with in the locker room.

Enter a guy like Thompson. Thompson is kind of in the middle stages now of becoming a true team leader. His experience level is almost what it needs to be and Thompson’s game is nearly there also.

Does Thompson think he can blossom into one of the voices the team tunes into?

“I think so,” Thompson said. “It’s one thing I can expand in my game. Like you said, with Chuck (Hayes) and ‘Cisco (Garcia) what makes or breaks them is obviously their longevity in the league and also that they’ve experienced the playoffs. For guys to be a voice in here, they really have to have experienced the playoffs and winning consistently.”

For Coach Smart, it’s a blessing to have such a receptive guy on his roster.

“I loved coaching him last year,” Smart said. “I saw him transition into a guy that goes out and plays – you don’t have to run plays for him, although he wants more. He does his job hard every single night. He practices at the same rate every single night, the same pace. And then just watching him stabilize his game.”

The stabilizer, this season, has been Kings big man coach Clifford Ray.

“Clifford Ray has done a great job with slowing his game down at little bit,” Smart continued. “We talked to him about not getting involved with officials or players from other teams that is going to pull his off of his game.”

“They see the guy works extremely hard,” Smart said. “He doesn’t complain. And that’s great for your team. That’s great for any team at whatever stage your team is in. If your in a developmental stage of trying to become a winner, in a team that is in the middle of the pack or a team that is eventually winning consistently.”

“He’s one of those guys fits every stage of a team as they try and become winners . . . He can stabilize all of those things.”

For DeMarcus Cousins, it mean almost more than he can put into word having a guy like J.T. on his team.

“I definitely lucky to have him on my team,” Cousins said. “J.T. Is probably one of the most unselfish players that I have eve played with. He accepts his role. He doesn’t mind playing that role. He goes out and does his job to the best of his ability every night. That’s definitely a player that you want on your team.”

“He’s always willing to play his role and be that catalyst on the team. That’s what every team needs!” 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF:

DAVID ALVAREZ

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