Ben McLemore received congratulations as he arrived at work Tuesday afternoon and had no idea what he’d done.
The Kings guard had to ask the reason for the kind words, and that’s how he learned he’d been named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November.
“It’s a blessing that I have an opportunity to be named Rookie of the Month,” McLemore said. “I’m just trying to get better every day and learn the system. And now that I’m starting, I can get more comfortable.”
McLemore entered Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder averaging 9.1 points. McLemore led all Western Conference rookies in scoring, 3-point field-goal percentage (35.0), free-throw percentage (81.0) and minutes per game (22.8).
McLemore was tied with Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams for the lead in 3-pointers by a rookie with 21. Carter-Williams was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.
Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore had been down on himself for his play lately. But the team is happy with the work McLemore has done to improve.
“It’s always nice to be noticed and recognized for your accomplishments,” Malone said. “But I never want him getting down whether he wins this award or not because he’s working and doing things that we’re asking him. This year is about him growing up and learning all these things so next year he won’t have to go through it again.”
McLemore is the fifth King to win the award. Isaiah Thomas was the last King to win the honor, in March 2012.
McLemore said winning the award wasn’t one of his goals for the season, but it’s something that could help him achieve a bigger one.
“Getting Rookie of the Year was one of my main goals, so being named Rookie of the Month is part of the process of trying to get that Rookie of the Year,” he said.
McLemore, however, isn’t keeping tabs on Carter-Williams or any other players who might be his competition for Rookie of the Year.
“I really don’t have time to do all that,” he said. “I’m really just trying to figure out and focus on what I’ve got to do over here; staying positive and getting better each and every day.”
The Kings’ next opponent with a losing record is Utah on Saturday. And after a slow start, the Jazz (4-15) has begun playing better, winning three of its last four games.
“Hopefully, our schedule eases up at some point,” Malone said. “I looked at it the other day, and I never see it easing up. But if at some point it does, hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of it.”