In spending most of his 12-year NBA playing career as a reserve, Kings assistant coach Bobby Jackson accepted a measure of uncertainty in his job namely, when he might get into a game and for how long. When he did see the floor, he viewed his role as an agitator in a crowd.
"Just come in and put energy in the game I think that was the most important thing," said Jackson, a key reserve on Kings teams of the early 2000s and the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2002-03.
The style Jackson brought to the role of sixth man may be different than that of guard Marcus Thornton, the Kings' top scorer a year ago whom they moved into a reserve role before this season.
"I was a little bit more defensive-minded," Jackson said, "but he has all the scoring ability and the knack for the game."
Jackson said Thornton can provide that same kind of spark for one big reason: the fourth-year player can pile up points in a hurry.
"Last year, we didn't have a guy who could come off the bench and score," Jackson said. "Now, (Thornton is) relied upon heavily to come off the bench and get points, and he knows that.
"Whether it be 15 or 20 minutes, 30 minutes, he's going to get touches and make something happen."
Through 13 games, the numbers support Jackson. Thornton has not started a game but ranks second on the Kings with 15.0 points per game. He is averaging about seven fewer minutes than last season, when he led the Kings with 18.7 points a game.
With Thornton, the Kings' bench, which ranked 24th in the NBA in scoring last year, stood at seventh as of Sunday afternoon with 37.7 points per game, according to hoopsstats.com.
Thornton has led the Kings in scoring three times this season, though there are also nights like Saturday, when he shot 3 of 9 and finished with nine points. After sitting out the third quarter of the Kings' win over the Utah Jazz, he came back in for the fourth and missed his three three-point attempts.
"Not as comfortable yet," Thornton said after the game of the new role. "But it's better than the first game of the season. I'm still growing, and the team's still growing. We'll figure out a way to work it out."
It's likely not the scenario Thornton envisioned entering the season. After signing a four-year deal before last season, he set a career high in scoring and emerged as arguably the Kings' most reliable clutch shooter.
Teammate Jason Thompson, who shuttled between starter and reserve for his first four seasons with the Kings, said Thornton has taken the move in stride.
"There's a lot of (times) where some of us guys want to be in different situations offensively, defensively, coming off the bench," Thompson said. "That's one thing Marcus is not selfish with. He knows that he can be a starter, but he comes off the bench and gives us that spark."
As of Sunday, Thornton ranked fifth in scoring among NBA players who had started fewer than half of their teams' games. The Los Angeles Clippers' Jamal Crawford (18.6 points per game) led the league.
"He had some resistance at the beginning of the season," Jackson said. "But I think he's adjusted to it and fell into it and accepted the role."
Jackson recalled knowing during his playing days that his minutes likely would vary from night to night, so he tried to maximize his impact during that time.
"Everybody wants to start, but at the end of the day, everybody can't start," Jackson said. "What is better for our team? And we think that (Thornton) coming off the bench, he'll be more productive for us, and we get that scoring off the bench that we lacked last (season)."