OKLAHOMA CITY -- The rookies aren’t complaining about playing too much.
The Kings have only two healthy guards after Isaiah Thomas missed a second consecutive game with a right quad contusion.
That left rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum plenty of time on the court.
Friday’s 94-81 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena provided both with plenty of opportunity to play and learn.
McLemore finished with a team-high 18 points. McCallum had 13 points and five assists in his second NBA start.
Both played nearly the entire game against the Thunder (53-19), who have the second-best record in the NBA.
It was a rough shooting night for both. McCallum made six of his 16 shots, while McLemore made five of 16.
“I thought the rookie backcourt did an excellent job, considering the circumstances,” said Kings coach Michael Malone.
Without Thomas and no other point guards on the roster, McCallum has played 89 of a possible 96 minutes in the last two games, including 46 against the Thunder.
“I’ll take all the minutes I can get,” McCallum said. “I’ve been waiting for the opportunity all year and getting a good opportunity to go out here and get some good experience and go out there and play.”
McCallum drew the task of defending Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook and veteran Derek Fisher, who played more with backup Reggie Jackson out with a back sprain.
“They have two completely different games,” McCallum said. “But being a point guard and seeing how they run their team, how vocal they are on the court and how they get guys in the right spots (helped). Going against guys like that is going to make me a better player. ... I’m playing against guys and trying to go at them, but I’m also trying to learn some things.”
With Thomas’ status uncertain for tonight’s game in Dallas, McCallum is in line to log a lot of minutes again against veteran Jose Calderon and the Mavericks.
“The toughest position to lose is your point guard because he runs your team,” Malone said. “There are times like the other night (against New York) where we did not look like an organized basketball team. Ray, I thought, he’s growing up, these are great opportunities for him.”
Malone said this experience is good for McCallum, who probably wouldn’t play more than 20 minutes if Thomas was healthy.
“I think Ray did terrific, to be honest,” Malone said. “He’s a young kid that hasn’t played a lot this year, but he is getting better, and he’s going to continue to get better. Every minute he plays on the floor against Russell Westbrook, Derek Fisher, how can you not get better, how can you not learn from that?”
McLemore is the only shooting guard the Kings (25-47) have, even when healthy. As long as he’s not in foul trouble, McLemore will play a lot.
He played 46 minutes against Oklahoma City.
“I think it’s great experience to have the opportunity to get a lot of minutes and play an important role on the team,” McLemore said. “Also to get a lot of reps, and later on in my career, I’m going to be playing these type of minutes. Coach wants us to compete, and that’s what I’m going out to do.”
Malone was excited McLemore was able to attempt a season-high six free throws; the most he’d tried in a game before Friday was five – on Nov. 19 against Phoenix.
Getting McLemore to be more than a jump shooter has been an emphasis this season.
“If he can get to the foul line six times a night, he becomes such a different player,” Malone said. “Now you’re no longer just a jump shooter, you’re a guy who can attack the basket, draw fouls and knock down your free throws.”