Tony Gutierrez / The Associated Press

Ray McCallum has been impressive starting the last four games in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas at point guard.

Kings’ McCallum making his point while Thomas heals

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2014 - 11:32 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014 - 9:32 am

Kings rookie guard Ray McCallum plays in the NBA as if his father, Ray Sr., is still coaching him.

“Playing for my father the last three years (at Detroit Mercy), my whole life he was always on me about turning the ball over,” McCallum said. “He’d take me out of games in college last year if I turned the ball over.”

That might explain why McCallum has been so careful with the ball during his first NBA season.

McCallum has played more than 40 minutes in four consecutive games while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a right quadriceps contusion, accelerating McCallum’s learning curve. During the four games, he’s been more aggressive on offense without the excessive turnovers committed by most rookies.

In the four starts, McCallum has averaged 45.2 minutes, 15.3 points, 7.0 assists and just 1.8 turnovers, and in the last two games he has 18 assists and just three turnovers.

“He protects the ball and he makes good decisions,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Whether it’s being a coach’s son, something that’s been instilled in him from an early age – assist-to-turnover ratio, valuing the basketball – that’s your No. 1 job as a point guard. Get your team into an offense, get the best players on the floor the ball where they’re most effective and value the basketball at a very high level, and he’s done that well for us.”

McCallum said being a coach’s son has played a part in that, but so has a seat next to Malone when he makes a mistake.

“I think that’s definitely helped carry me along the way to always have that in the back of my mind,” McCallum said. “If I turn the ball over, I might come out, and I want to play as much as I can, so I try to go in there and take care of the ball and just be efficient.”

McCallum’s poise has impressed his coaches and teammates, especially considering he didn’t play much during the first half of the season.

“This is a guy that didn’t play at all in the first half of the season, and I talked with him because he was down,” forward Rudy Gay said. “I said you never know what can happen. We (waive) Jimmer (Fredette), he gets a little more playing time; I.T. goes out, and he starts. You never know, and he’s always been working hard. So once he got his chance, he made the best of it.”

Malone is pleased, too, that McCallum has been more assertive since the first half of last week’s game against New York.

McCallum missed his first nine shots against the Knicks and wasn’t vocal enough, leading to confusion on the court. But as his scoring and assists have increased the last two games, so has his protection of the ball, especially critical since the Kings have had a problem with turnovers all season. They entered Tuesday’s games averaging 14.9 turnovers, eighth most in the NBA.

“Being a rookie, a young guy with these great players, you can’t be out there turning the ball over,” McCallum said. “You’ve got to be able to take care of the ball and make sure we get a shot every possession or get something good. It’s on me whether we do or not. That’s just an area of my game I try to go out there – see the floor and try to take care of the ball.”

Malone joked that Thomas should hurry back from his injury because McCallum’s play might keep him on the bench. While that’s not the plan, the Kings believe McCallum has shown enough to be a regular contributor entering next season.

“I think coach will continue to play those guys (Thomas and McCallum) together because they play well together,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “I’m just glad that Ray’s continued to improve each game. He’s definitely going to be a big part of this team.

“With each game, he’s growing, his confidence is growing, so hopefully, he continues down that path.”

As he does, McCallum will have the messages from his father and Malone in his head: be aggressive and take care of the ball, or there might be a seat on the bench for him.

Evans fined – Kings forward Reggie Evans was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for his flagrant foul 2 during Monday’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans

Evans elbowed Pelicans forward Anthony Davis while attempting to shoot during the third quarter and was ejected.

Evans had 12 rebounds in 23 minutes in the Kings’ 102-97 victory.

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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