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  • Randall Benton The Sacramento Bee Kings guard Marcus Thornton (23) earned the nickname "Little Buckets" from Heat star LeBron James after lighting up Miami for 36 points last season.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. The Sacramento Bee Kings guard Marcus Thornton (23), being fouled by Memphis' Quincy Pondexter last season, has earned respect from coach Michael Malone by buying into a new defense.

Kings' Thornton waiting to rain buckets

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 - 6:42 pm

Jimmer Fredette went on a scoring binge Thursday. Sunday was Ben McLemore's turn to score 20-plus points.

Perhaps it's Marcus Thornton's turn this week.

Thornton is the Kings' most experienced shooting guard with a track record as a scorer who can put up big numbers in a hurry.

Dubbed "Little Buckets" by LeBron James after he came off the bench to torch the Miami Heat for 36 points last season, Thornton hasn't gone on one of his scoring onslaughts during the preseason.

But in the competition to start at shooting guard, he is averaging 8.0 points in 18.8 minutes per game.

Those aren't exactly showcase numbers, but Thornton has been content to allow coach Michael Malone to use the preseason to evaluate the less-proven Fredette and McLemore.

Malone said Thornton told him to leave Fredette in Thursday's game against Phoenix when it became apparent Fredette was in a good flow.

"He's been very professional," Malone said. "He hasn't taken it personal."

Thornton spent part of his second season in New Orleans with Malone, who was an assistant coach there. So the communication has been good, and Thornton doesn't mind if Malone wants to sit him out a game, as he's done during the preseason, to look at the younger guards.

"I'm good," Thornton said. "It's preseason, and he knows me, and I know him. It's no insult. I'm not too worried about it. He knows what I'm capable of. It's preseason, and guys like Ben and Jimmer are out there showcasing their talent."

Thornton knows Malone's defensive emphasis well from New Orleans.

Malone, however, is asking the Kings to fall in line with a new approach. Thornton isn't noted for his defense, but when he's engaged, he defends passing lanes and creates offense. That's not the identity Malone wants for Sacramento.

"(Thornton has) gotten a lot of buckets, especially in the past, from being in the passing lanes," Malone said. "We're not a deny team; we're not a steal team. I don't want to be overplaying the passing lanes and get beat backdoor."

Malone requires discipline – sticking to the game plan and being in the right position defensively. Thornton has been up to task.

"But what I'm happy with about Marcus is he is trying to follow our rules and not just make it up on his own, not take shortcuts, not gamble for steals," Malone said. "But be solid, and that takes a lot of discipline to be a solid defensive player and execute the game plan on a nightly basis, so that's what I'm proud of him for."

Thornton knew when Malone was hired the Kings would hear a lot about defense.

Malone's previous teams (Cleveland, New Orleans, Golden State) eventually became better on defense. Thornton's commitment to implementing Malone's defensive scheme is no surprise.

"His thing is defense first," Thornton said. "You're not going to play unless you play defense, so you have to buy into it. He's been on a lot of good teams. He knows what he's doing."

Malone plans to begin using a starting lineup and rotation that mirrors his plans for the Kings' regular-season opener Oct. 30 at Denver.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Thornton in the starting lineup, even without a signature preseason showing.

After all, "Little Buckets" has proven in the regular season he can make big buckets.

"It's preseason, and he knows me, and I know him. It's no insult. I'm not too worried about it." MARCUS THORNTON, on Kings coach Michael Malone

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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