An uncertain future looms ahead for the Sacramento Kings’ longest-tenured player

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Jason Thompson throws down against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Photo: Steven Chea)How many times does Jason Thompson have to wonder if he’s still wanted by the Sacramento Kings?

Thompson is the Kings’ longest tenured player. Yet, the veteran power forward has had to deal with the franchise bringing in someone to challenge him in each of his five NBA seasons.

From Mikki Moore to Sean May, Carl Landry to Samuel Dalembert, J.J. Hickson to Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson to Patrick Patterson, many have tried, but few have succeeded to dethrone the incumbent.

“It’s just crazy my rookie year, I just remember that entire year the Kings’ future big men were me and Spencer (Hawes),” Thompson said when Cowbell Kingdom caught up with him last week for a video feature to posted later today. “And look how that turned out.”

Having called Sacramento his home for the last five years, Thompson is ecstatic that the capital city overcame the odds to keep its team. The added stability at the top of the organization has him thinking positively about the Kings’ future in Sacramento. But with the return of Landry to an already loaded front court, even the 26-year-old power forward has to ponder if his time is coming to an end.

“It’s definitely going in a positive direction,” Thompson said before Landry’s agent Mark Bartlestein officially announced his client’s comeback to the capital city on Saturday. “It’s kind of tough, you build relationships with players and you know it is a business. But it’s not always the most comfortable when you kind of have the ‘no one’s safe’ clause.

“You hear from top to bottom on the roster (that) everyone can be traded…not be there next season,” Thompson added. “So in a way, it’s not the best feeling.”

While challengers have come and gone, Thompson has always seemed to fend them off by adding a new wrinkle to his game in each of his five seasons. The 26-year-old came into the NBA as a big man with a raw post game, focusing rather on beating his opposition with his mid-range jump shot.

DeMarcus Cousins’s arrival pushed Thompson closer to the basket.  With Cousins occupying space in the high post, Thompson came into the final year of his rookie deal with a stronger back-to-the-basket game. His touch around the rim improved, leading to better shot selection and a career-high 53.5 percent from the field that year.

As his game has matured so has his understanding of the business. In addition to his challengers, Thompson has had five different coaches in five NBA seasons. If he’s back in Sacramento next year, Michael Malone will be his sixth.

Despite the inconsistency at the top of the organization, the Kings power forward hasn’t become jaded about his career. Thompson understands that sometimes teams’ salary structures and the financial bottom lines determine how rosters are built.

“That’s some of the things that young guys really don’t understand and some guys that even have a lot of years in on their belt won’t understand,” Thompson said. “Because if they’re a good fit on the team, they feel like they should be with that team to see them succeed.

“But with contracts and coaches and lineups and all that type of stuff, things can change man,” he added.

If this is the end, Thompson will hold no grudges.  If he has to win over a new coach, he sounds prepared to do so again.  “You can only control what you can control” has become a motto for the veteran power forward.

“If you’ve been on a successful team, then you only make minor changes,” Thompson said. “But you know when (there) hasn’t been positive things, then you kind of look at the roster, top to bottom, to see where changes can be made.”

James Ham also contributed to this story.

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