Jason Thompson is able to put his seven seasons in Sacramento into perspective and smile.
The Kings have tried to find players to supplant him as the starting power forward. He’s had seven coaches and 101 teammates.
The team hasn’t had a winning season, either.
So Thompson didn’t want a lot made over playing his 519th game with the Kings to become the leader in games played in the Sacramento era Friday night in a 119-114 loss to the Orlando Magic at Amway Center.
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For a player who worked his way to being the 12th overall pick out of Rider, Thompson said he’s “blessed” to have been in the NBA this long.
The Kings will recognize the accomplishment March 16, the first home game after their eight-game trip.
The team is providing 519 tickets for under-served kids, who will receive Thompson T-shirts and cheer cards. There will also be a video montage of Thompson’s time in Sacramento.
“It hasn’t been the easiest seven years, but I take it as I’m blessed to come out of Rider, 12th to Sacramento and earn my spot,” Thompson said.
It’s no secret the front office has looked to replace Thompson. And fans use social media to let Thompson know they believe the Kings would be better without him.
Throughout the string of losing seasons since Rick Adelman was fired in 2006, the most constant face in Sacramento has been been Thompson, who was drafted in 2008.
“At first I didn’t understand it, but it kinda makes sense, though,” Thompson said. “If you’ve been here the longest and there aren’t any familiar faces, you have to find someone to point at, so it makes sense that if everyone else is gone you’ve got to start from scratch. I think the only other guy here who’s been here with me is (DeMarcus) Cousins (for five seasons) and he’s an All-Star so he’s not going to get too much of the blame.”
Kings coach George Karl benched Thompson in his first game as coach as a way to try to shake up the lineup and give the bench some help.
Karl said he wasn’t demoting or punishing Thompson, just looking to mix things up.
But Thompson was back with the first unit by halftime of that game.
“The desire for me is to build a culture of winning and also a culture of how to be a pro,” Karl said. “I think J.T. can do that. I think he wants to be on a winning team, I think he’s good enough to be on a winning team. I think he can be helpful to the character of our team.”
Thompson has started 396 of the 519 games he’s played in. He entered Friday with career averages of 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds.
His scoring average this season of 5.6 is the lowest of his career, but Thompson’s defense has been praised most of the season. He came into training camp in the best shape of his career to again win the starting job at power forward.
Thompson is in the top 10 in six categories in the Kings’ Sacramento era. He’s the all-time leader in fouls (1,612) in addition to being in the top 10 in blocks, rebounds, field goals made and attempted.
If he’s around next season, he’ll likely crack the top 10 in scoring while chasing Chris Webber for the top spot in rebounds. Cousins won’t be far behind in rebounds.
Thompson said he feels “appreciated” for his time with the Kings, and when his career is over, he’ll be able to reflect on a lot of good with the Kings.
“Throughout the times and the adversity and different coaches, I think there have been a lot of positives,” Thompson said. “I’ll be able to look back on it, and to finish my career here would be great, somehow get into the playoffs and having a chance to win a championship.
“But if it happens somewhere else, too, I feel like Sacramento fans will be able to take me with open arms. And if I do write a book, it’ll have a storybook ending somehow.”
Of course it would because a player from Rider isn’t supposed to last in the NBA this long.