One of the loudest cheers of the night at Power Balance Pavilion on Sunday went up at the beginning of the second quarter, as it was announced that Francisco Garcia had checked into the game.
Garcia, the longest-tenured player on the Kings, made his season debut in the Kings' 96-80 win over the Hornets and finished with six points and two rebounds.
Garcia started 34 games for the Kings last season but had not appeared during the team's 1-3 start this season.
"It's been a long time, but it feels good," Garcia said after the game. "It feels good to be back, be with my teammates."
Upon entering the game, Garcia promptly blocked a shot, then hoisted a three-point attempt on the offensive end that was off the mark. His second attempt two minutes later missed as well.
Early in the fourth quarter, though, Garcia made consecutive three-pointers to put the Kings ahead 74-62 with 9:39 to play.
"The guys had confidence in him to take those shots and it really gave us some nice breathing space," Kings coach Paul Westphal said.
With John Salmons starting at small forward and Travis Outlaw backing up Salmons through the first four games, Garcia was the odd man out in the rotation.
But with DeMarcus Cousins inactive against the Hornets, Westphal used Outlaw to back up J.J. Hickson at power forward and had Garcia play behind Salmons.
Garcia played 9 minutes, 23 seconds and made 2 of 4 shot attempts, all of them three-pointers. He added the two rebounds and a block, and picked up four fouls.
Forward-center Chuck Hayes said Garcia's impact was not measured solely by statistics as the Kings snapped a three-game losing streak against the Hornets.
"Cisco brought his shooting, a voice, some leadership," Hayes said. "After hitting a three-game losing streak, it was something we needed as a team in this game. We couldn't hit a shot, our offense was kind of shaky, we just needed that boost. It was fresh legs and a fresh voice, and that's what Cisco did for us."
Garcia remained involved from the bench through the Kings' first four games and maintained a veteran presence among teammates. Still, Westphal said this week that not playing was "killing (Garcia) inside."
Garcia was diplomatic when asked Sunday night if he was frustrated by the lack of playing time early.
"That's Coach's decision, so I have to respect that, stay ready for whenever they call my number," Garcia said. "They called it today, and I was ready."
-- Matt Kawahara