Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Rookie Ray McCallum has appeared in only 16 games for the Kings, but coach Michael Malone says one of the goals for the final 29 games is to give him consistent minutes.

Kings want to see what rookie guard McCallum can do with more playing time

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 - 8:56 am

Of the 63 official game minutes that so far comprise the NBA career of Ray McCallum, the most valuable 10, according to the Kings rookie, occurred Feb. 1 in a 95-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

For part of that time, the guard was matched up against Tony Parker, the wily Spurs veteran who came into the league in 2001 – when McCallum was 10.

“Just being a student of the game, I watch a lot of film, a lot of games,” McCallum said. “It’s one thing to watch someone play on TV, but once you’re on the court, it’s a much faster pace. But I felt fine and comfortable out there.”

McCallum scored five points on 2-of-3 shooting in the game. The Kings, meanwhile, outscored the Spurs by two points with McCallum on the floor, but such a small glimpse prevents the drawing of any grand conclusions – which thus far is the story of McCallum’s first NBA tour.

With a little more than a third of the season to play, the Kings’ brass acknowledges McCallum remains largely an unknown quantity. As a result, coach Michael Malone said one of his goals for the final 29 games is to give McCallum consistent minutes off the bench to get a better idea of the player the Kings selected with the 36th pick in last summer’s draft.

Malone said he doesn’t have a concrete number of minutes in mind for McCallum but that the rookie, who has appeared in 16 games, needs to “just play.”

“He hasn’t played this year,” Malone said. “So can he run his team? Can he guard his position, can he be aggressive, can he make plays to his right hand, to his left hand? Just really take full assessment of him as an NBA point guard and get a much better picture of what he needs to work on going into the offseason.”

McCallum’s most extended game action this season came in two stints with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League, where he averaged 20 points on 46.2 percent shooting and 4.3 assists in seven games. That and a work ethic general manager Pete D’Alessandro raves about feed a general sense of optimism about McCallum, despite his limited game action.

“The proof is in the pudding, and when he gets out there, we’ll see,” D’Alessandro said. “I see him in practice, see the way he works, and really enjoy watching that. But I really am looking forward to watching him (in games).”

McCallum, of course, is looking forward to playing more – the topic of discussion between him and Malone after the Kings reconvened Monday from the All-Star break. McCallum said he believes he has improved during the season – he singled out “cleaning up” his jump shot as one area – but there is value in extended game minutes.

“Just being able to run the team, getting guys in their spots, get them shots,” McCallum said. “Also at the same time, be aggressive and be a defender. I just want to complete my rookie year on a high note and continue into next year.”

Most of McCallum’s minutes have come late in games with outcomes already decided. Malone said he intends to work McCallum into games earlier, with the knowledge he’ll have the opportunity to “play through his mistakes.”

“I don’t want him making a turnover, missing a shot, and looking over at the bench,” said Malone. “I have to let him play. That’s the only way he’s going to grow in the NBA.”

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara

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