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  • José Luis Villegas /

    Ben McLemore, going to the basket against Detroit on Nov. 15, has been working with Kings coaches on his ballhandling and ability to make plays off the dribble since summer league.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Ben McLemore, driving against Phoenix’s Gerald Green on Nov. 19, has made 12 of 24 shots in his last two games while showing off other skills.

Kings rookie McLemore works tirelessly on his game

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 - 10:50 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 - 10:58 pm

Tuesday was a day off for the Kings. But rookie guard Ben McLemore has found he has little use for days off.

Why would McLemore want to rest when there are more shots to take, weights to lift or ballhandling drills to go through?

Asked how he might spend his day off before the Kings host the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at Sleep Train Arena, McLemore had a couple of ideas: first set up a meeting with team director of athletic performance Chip Schaefer and then call an assistant coach for on-court work.

“I want to get with Chip, work on some upper body,” McLemore said. “Try to build some mass, get a little stronger and also work on some stuff on my game.”

That dedication has kept the Kings high on McLemore, even as he’s endured shooting slumps and struggles on defense during his first NBA tour.

McLemore has shown signs the workouts have been productive. He’s made 12 of 24 shots in his last two games while showing off other skills. He grabbed a season-high nine rebounds in Monday’s 106-99 loss to Utah.

His dribbling is also noticeably improved – a point of emphasis after he struggled mightily to control the ball during summer league.

Coaches are thrilled to see McLemore making plays off the dribble – using either hand – and showing confidence and the ability to create plays for himself or teammates.

“That’s something that we’ve been working on since summer league, his ballhandling, his ability to make plays off the dribble and not solely be a jump shooter and so reliant on his jump shot,” coach Michael Malone said. “Because he’s too athletic to be a guy that’s just going to catch and shoot. He has to put pressure on the basket and make plays for himself and after he draws the defense make a play for a teammate.”

Much of the work McLemore does to become a well-rounded player happens after practice and on days off.

Yes, the Kings love to see him make shots. But the coaching staff might be happier to see him excited about other improvements in his game.

“I was telling coach (Chris) Jent and coach Dee (Brown) the things we’ve been working on I’ve been perfecting out there on the court,” McLemore said. “I’m more comfortable dribbling the ball, coming off screens and handling it and creating shots for myself. I’m definitely comfortable and I want to continue to grow.”

McLemore is averaging 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 44 games. He’s started 26 games and recently went back to a reserve role. He is shooting 36.9 percent, 34.6 percent from 3-point range.

McLemore said his confidence remains the same starting or coming off the bench. Malone said McLemore has never dropped his head this season.

“I think we do a good job of keeping him up, building his confidence and letting him know how much we still believe in him when he has struggled at times,” Malone said. “But Ben is a very resilient young man. He knows he’s only going to get better and this is only the beginning of his journey as an NBA player, and he’s going to have a long and productive career.”

The desire to keep improving only makes McLemore want to work more, even on his days off.

“These last couple of games I’ve been feeling comfortable out there, doing the moves we’ve been working on and going to the bench and telling the coaches, ‘That’s the move we’ve been working on,’ ” McLemore said. “It definitely helps a lot and I will continue to get better each and every day and continue on this road.”

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at

Read more articles by Jason Jones

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