The chances of persuading Isaiah Thomas to sit out a game simply so Ray McCallum could gain experience were slim.
A right quadriceps contusion took the decision away from Thomas, sidelining him for the first time this season. So McCallum, the Kings second-round draft pick, finally had the chance to run the Kings, knowing he was the only point guard on the roster.
McCallum went through some growing pains in his first NBA start in a 107-99 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
McCallum missed his first nine shots before scoring with 51.7 seconds left in the third quarter. He finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in a season-high 42 minutes.
Unfortunately, I came out to a slow start, McCallum said. But from the jump I had confidence, poise in my game to go out there and compete. It just didnt come out the way I wanted to. Came in (the locker room before) the second half, watched some film and saw some of my mistakes and was able to see that and able to let the game slow down and come out and be aggressive.
Aggressiveness was the message to McCallum from his teammates and coaches, not just in trying to score but in directing the team.
He has to be a lot more vocal, said Kings coach Michael Malone. Heres a young kid, NBA rookie, whos trying to find a way to get comfortable running his team. And sometimes guys didnt know what we were in, what the call was on the floor. So he has to have much more of a voice. He has to lead, and there should never be any indecision in terms of what were in.
Malone told McCallum that when hes passive hes an ordinary player. But McCallum became more aggressive as the game went on.
McCallum said his teammates helped in that regard. DeMarcus Cousins said he told McCallum he wasnt alone on the court and his teammates were there to support him.
I told him to become aggressive, play your game, Cousins said. Being a point guard, running a whole NBA team, thats a tough job. He showed that (Wednesday) its a tough task to do. I believe he got his confidence in that second half and made some big plays for us.
McCallum helped the Kings trim a 24-point deficit to two, 96-94, with 4:30 to play. But the Kings came no closer because of the hot shooting of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
Still, the experience was a plus for McCallum and the Kings. Thomas will be a restricted free agent once the Kings make him a qualifying offer. The only other point guard on the roster is 36-year-old Jason Terry, who is not with the team while rehabilitating a knee injury.
Terry could still be traded or waived. The Kings would like to retain Thomas for the right price, but bringing in another point guard is a possibility, even if Thomas is re-signed.
The more McCallum plays, the more information the Kings have entering their offseason planning.
Cousins led the Kings (25-46) with 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Rudy Gay, who filled in as the backup point guard, had 14 points and three assists. Travis Outlaw had 15 points off the bench.
Anthony led the Knicks (30-42) with 36 points, and Smith added 29. Smith made 9 of 12 three-pointers. The arena record is 10 by Miamis Mario Chalmers, Jan. 12, 2013.
The Knicks bounced back from allowing 127 points to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, including 51 third-quarter points.