PORTLAND, Ore. The Kings are optimistic rookie guard Ben McLemore will develop into one of the NBA's better players.
But there's no rush to put McLemore in the spotlight.
McLemore came off the bench for the fifth consecutive preseason game Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center.
He scored 23 points in the Kings' 109-105 loss.
Kings coach Michael Malone didn't rule out starting McLemore but favors bringing him along slowly.
"He's still playing a lot of minutes for us, but when you bring him off the bench, he gets to play against second-tier guys," Malone said. "There's no pressure on him. Just go out there, play your game, and he is gaining confidence.
"I think that's the most important thing for him, to continue to improve, to understand what we're trying to do on both ends of the floor, especially defensively, but try to play with confidence, and he's done that."
McLemore has played in every preseason game but has yet to start.
Marcus Thornton has started three games at guard and Jimmer Fredette two.
McLemore said the last time he wasn't a starter was in AAU, backing up current Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
McLemore said starting his NBA career as a reserve would not bother him.
"I'm just out there playing free, just playing with an open mind," he said. "Going out there and having fun."
Cousins rests Malone gave DeMarcus Cousins the night off. The center is averaging 21.3 points on 51.8 percent shooting and 9.0 rebounds in the preseason.
The Blazers also rested their star big man, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Jason Thompson started at center instead of power forward, and Patrick Patterson started at power forward for the Kings. John Salmons, Thornton and Greivis Vasquez were the other starters.
More time In his third game after offseason ankle surgery, Vasquez played in the second half for the first time.
The Kings are closely monitoring Vasquez to avoid putting too much physical strain on him. Vasquez played 20 minutes Sunday.
Future plans Malone said Wednesday's preseason game against the Golden State Warriors remains the target for forward Luc Mbah a Moute (sore right knee) to return to action.
Mbah a Moute has not played since the Kings opened the preseason Oct. 7 at Golden State.
Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.