Jason Thompson had been with the Sacramento Kings a long time - before the days of DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, the Royce White experiment and the relocation threats. During his 2008-09 rookie season the Kings were still only two years removed from the playoffs.
Since then? Thompson experienced a revolving door of teammates, seven coaches and a 173-385 record (is that bad?) in his seven seasons in Sacramento.
He never won more than 30 games.
In recent seasons, Thompson had expressed his frustrations and reports surfaced about his desire to be traded. That wish came true Wednesday when he was packaged with Carl Landry and Nik Stauskas in a deal that sent him back to his hometown of Philadelphia, where he grew up a 76ers fan.
The Kings have offloaded his contract (two more years worth $13.2 million) and in the process helped free up cap space to sign free agents. (The Kings could back out of the deal, but that would seem unlikely).
Thompson averaged a career-low 6.1 points last season. His best basketball, at least statistically, came in his first two seasons when he averaged 11.8 points and nearly 8 rebounds. In those seasons he played alongside Spencer Hawes (yes, these two were once considered the "future"). In 2010-11, Thompson's production began to dip. His usage rate decreased as this was when Cousins was drafted and took over the frontcourt - for good reason. Thompson, who now owns the record for most games played in a Kings uniform (541), never seemed to fit in next to Cousins, but despite several players coming in to challenge him for the starting power forward position, he remained in the front court all the way through last season.
"When I got here, you had Spence [Spencer Hawes] and me are the bigs of the future and then the next thing you know, Spence is gone, he's been on four other teams since and then Cuz has been here too ... Spence is a pass-first kind of big and then Cuz is dominant with the ball, so it's kind of stuff where you have to adjust," Thompson told Sactown Royalty during his JT Elite Basketball Camp this week, which benefits The Salvation Army and Centers for Fathers and Families. "And then, when you don't have a coach for longer than a year, you don't really know how to adjust to it to make your game better too, so it's tough. You don't ever want to do excuses, but it's kind of like proof in the pudding, I don't think took many things that change all the time are successful."
The Kings have had a problem with constant change for years, and it is still something the organization needs to fix. From Paul Westphal to Kenny Natt to Keith Smart, the coaches came in and out of the locker room trying to implement new systems and right the Kings ship throughout Thompson's tenure. The circumstances weren't ideal, but at the same time, Thompson never quite established a niche for himself. For a guy who isn't a profound scorer (particularly not a great outside shooter that is serviceable as a stretch four) or an elite athlete, not having something to hang his hat on hampers him somewhat, especially in today's NBA that relies on speed and outside shooting. He remains a solid big though and will likely have several more productive years as a rotation front court player because he rebounds, defends, plays hard, takes care of his body (he played in more than 80 games in the last three seasons) and remains a true professional on and off and floor.
I have seen his positive interactions with Kings fans in Sacramento, always willing to sign autographs with a smile. He remained visible whether it was downtown or at the Galleria mall in Roseville. He held four youth youth basketball camps in recent years and was a fan the school districts in the area. He kept a positive attitude despite friends being shipped out, seeing fights in the locker room, dealing with two relocation threats and the disastrous 2014-15 season, which in April he characterized as a circus.
"This is one circus of a year as a team ... This is the first time I've had more coaches than I had different teammates in one season, so another milestone in my seven years," Thompson said.
Thompson had plenty more comments like this recently and was not shy about expressing his dissatisfaction, which was warranted given the state of the franchise.
It was just last November when this Kings team shocked the league with a 9-5 start to the season. But then came the subsequent dive to the depths of the Sacramento River that resulted in a total of 29 wins and the firing of Michael Malone. When asked what the bright spot of last season was for him, Thompson referenced his former coach.
"How the culture was changed by coach Malone … he's a guy that was worrying about defense, defense and it ended up paying off, especially in the beginning so it's unfortunate," said Thompson, who was happy to see Malone get hired by the Denver Nuggets. "I still keep in contact with him, he's a good dude, good coach and wish him the best."
Thompson has said more than once that he just wants basketball to be fun again. Maybe this fresh start can provide that. The 76ers have struggled and aren't exactly built for success, but it is his hometown and a clean slate. The first NBA game Thompson attended as a kid was in First Union Center (now the Wells Fargo Center). He will now be suiting up in that same building next season, some 2,800 miles away from Sleep Train Arena and the dysfunctional past.
On Thursday, Thompson tweeted that he will always be grateful to the Kings for drafting him and the fans in Sacramento. Thompson told me the fans in Sacramento deserve a winner.
"They had the glory days and I feel like the Kings fans deserve success," Thompson said.
So do you JT, best of luck in Philadelphia.
News 10 caught up with Thompson after the news of the trade broke. Check it out here.