Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

Ben McLemore: The Kings' top draft pick - unimpressive in summer league - has since worked to improve his dribbling and shot selection.

Kings' top draft pick determined to prove himself in training camp

Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 - 10:42 am

SANTA BARBARA – Cliches have always been a part of sports, and there's one cliche that couldn't fit Kings guard Ben McLemore better: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

There's no need to remind the first-round draft choice how much he struggled during summer league in Las Vegas in July.

He's the first to admit his ballhandling was sloppy and his shot selection was questionable.

In five games, McLemore shot 33.3 percent from the field, including 19.4 percent on three-pointers. He also averaged 3.6 turnovers and didn't have an assist.

McLemore then heard the criticism, that those games illustrated why he dropped from a top-three pick to seventh, and said that has fueled his desire to improve his game as he prepared for his first NBA training camp this week at UC Santa Barbara.

"Definitely," McLemore said. "I'm just coming here to play my role, play my game and show everybody this is why I'm in the NBA. This is why the Sacramento Kings selected me at No. 7 in the draft. So I've just got to show everybody and prove everybody wrong."

After summer league, McLemore knew he needed to improve his dribbling. He spent a lot of time focusing on keeping the ball low and near his body to protect it from defenders.

No one asked McLemore to come to camp with the dribbling ability of a Harlem Globetrotter, but he knows he needs to be competent and be able to set up teammates off the dribble.

"I don't need no crazy A.I. (Allen Iverson) handles," said McLemore, who worked out in Los Angeles before joining his teammates in Sacramento last month for voluntary workouts. "I just need to get from Point A to Point B."

The Kings are excited about McLemore's athleticism and shooting ability, but he needs to improve his dribbling and shot selection to earn the majority of minutes at shooting guard, where he's competing with Marcus Thornton for the starting job.

Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore has made great strides since July.

"His ability to make plays off the dribble, which he did not do a great job of in summer league … has gotten so much better," Malone said. "Now he can make a play off the bounce; he's making some really good passes with his understanding of the game."

Malone also praised McLemore's shot selection.

"The fact is, he's a very good shooter, but during summer league (he) got caught taking some shots that were not great shots – contested, off-balance shots," Malone said. "Now, probably because he's playing with some very good players, he's getting open looks and he's taking good, uncontested shots."

During training camp, McLemore doesn't have the pressure of being the focal point, as he was during summer league, plus he's working with NBA players, rather than players trying to get jobs who might not have been as interested in setting him up.

"In summer league, I was trying to do everything, shoot, score, defense," McLemore said. "But now I have (teammates who) can help me and make it a lot more easy for me to get open, create for myself off the dribble, off the ball, whatever."

McLemore said he's also changed his diet, with the goal to be healthier and stronger. After a typical college diet, McLemore said he's eating more fruits, vegetables and drinking a lot of milk.

It's about trying to become a better player, he said.

"I'm a guy that likes to learn," McLemore said. "I'm very coachable. I just want to go out there and learn, listen to the coaches and do what I've got to do."

No moves pending – Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro said he's mainly observing at training camp.

He said he will talk with Malone about the roster during camp, but he wants to give Malone a chance to work with the players first.

"There are a few (free agents) left out there," D'Alessandro said. "I think where we are right now is in a good place in terms of the evaluation process. To tinker right now would probably be a little more difficult than when we get into the season a little bit."

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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