NEW ORLEANS – Kings guard Marcus Thornton understands.
Whether he's lauded or jeered comes down to one thing – whether he makes shots.
"It's always good when shots go down," Thornton said. "When you're missing nobody wants to hear it, but when you're making them, everybody feels good."
Thornton felt good after Saturday's win at Charlotte after scoring a game-high 18 points.
But his shooting and production have been inconsistent. He was 6 of 11 against the Bobcats but 3 of 11 combined against Washington and Memphis last week.
Last season, Thornton led the Kings with 18.7 points per game. This season, coming off the bench, he's down to 12.4 points and averaging almost 10 fewer minutes. As a starter, Thornton could shoot his way out of a slump. But as a reserve, he's expected to provide instant offense.
"Coming in off the bench, he's obviously pressing to get a bucket quickly," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "When he makes those early, he's probably going to have a nice run."
That was the case Saturday, when Thornton scored 12 points in the second quarter.
"For him, it's shots right away," Smart said. "If he comes in, makes some shots right away, he's now involved in the game."
Though Smart has options, he said a bad start doesn't mean Thornton will get pulled. If Thornton is getting good looks in the flow of the offense, Smart said he's inclined to leave him in.
"I still look at what he's doing," Smart said. "I still look at him because Marcus is a streak guy."
Today's game against New Orleans is the Kings' first this season against Thornton's former team. Like Smart, Thornton is from Baton Rouge, La.
"I'm happy to go home and see my family, but it's business first," Thornton said. "We need this win."
Early risers – Kings center DeMarcus Cousins isn't complaining about today's 10 a.m. start against the Hornets.
"It's a little twist, but at the same time it's not, because it's around the time we normally have practice," Cousins said, not taking into account the two-hour time difference. "Just treat it like a practice and play hard."
Select company – Cousins is unlikely to make the Western Conference All-Star team, given the Kings' 16-25 record and the abundance of other players having good seasons.
But he is one of only three players averaging at least 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The other two are Lakers center Dwight Howard, an All-Star starter, and Golden State forward David Lee, a 2010 All-Star with New York who could make the team this year. Reserves for the Feb. 17 game in Houston will be announced Thursday.
Cousins averages 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds.