Jason Thompson has started 283 of the 386 games he’s played in for the Kings, or 73.3 percent of the time.
That’s not to say the Kings haven’t looked to make Thompson a backup more than once.
From Samuel Dalembert to J.J. Hickson to Chuck Hayes, or drafting Thomas Robinson, the Kings have made moves with the intent of making Thompson a reserve. But Thompson always ends up back in the starting lineup, and that’s the case again this season.
Thompson signed a five-year contract with the Kings in July 2012, and he started 81 of 82 games last season. He began this season coming off the bench behind Patrick Patterson before returning to the starting lineup two games ago.
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Thompson said he’s tried to maintain a positive outlook each time he finds himself coming off the bench.
“I’ve got to be the ultimate professional because the NBA is a small league when it comes to other teams being interested,” Thompson said. “Sometimes you’re auditioning for other teams. Not to say I don’t want to be here, but there are times when things aren’t going good and it’s frustrating, especially if you’re not playing and we’re losing and you feel like you can help the team out.”
Thompson watched as the Kings struggled to rebound to start the season. And after the Portland Trail Blazers had their way on the glass in consecutive games against the Kings, Thompson was put back in the starting lineup.
He’s still struggling to find his shooting touch this season as a starter (6 of 20), but Thompson has grabbed 20 rebounds in two starts.
“I try to be the ultimate professional,” Thompson said. “To say that I wasn’t frustrated or maybe to say I’m still not slightly now, I would be lying a little bit.”
Thompson was frustrated, but he never let it show. Kings coach Michael Malone said Thompson’s demeanor was never affected by his role as a reserve.
“He was very receptive,” Malone said. “We started Patrick to start the season, obviously, and J.T., he came to work every day. He’s had tremendous work ethic. He’s been very vocal, very positive, so he didn’t take it as a slight or a personal attack on him. He’s a pro. And now obviously we made a change in the lineup and he’s back in there.”
Thompson said he consulted veterans that have been in his situation to cope, but realized something in his sixth season.
“I’m kind of a veteran in this situation,” Thompson said with a laugh. “So you just try to be as positive as you can.”
Thompson starting again pairs him with DeMarcus Cousins. Thompson (6-foot-11, 250 pounds) is big enough to not only rebound but to defend against centers and help keep Cousins out of foul trouble.
“It’s crazy,” Cousins said of how Thompson ends up a starter. “He finds a way. All credit due to him.”
Memphis (4-5) vs. Kings (2-6)
Time: 3 p.m.
Where: Sleep Train Arena
Radio: KHTK (1140)