PORTLAND, Ore. – The shot looked good early and often.
Just don't try to convince Kings coach Michael Malone that was the best part of Patrick Patterson's game Sunday night. Yes, Patterson had struggled shooting during the preseason before scoring 27 points in the Kings' 109-105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center.
Patterson was shooting 38.2 percent (13 of 34) before Sunday's game. But he shot 11 of 18 against Portland, including 3 of 5 from three-point range.
Malone, though, was most encouraged by Patterson's eight rebounds and the energy and hustle he showed pursuing the ball off the glass and on defense.
"I wasn't even worried about his shot," Malone said. "I hadn't talked to him about making shots at all. It was all about his defense and his rebounding. I just love who he is. He's a pro, he's a hard worker, and he has great toughness. So for him to have that game (Sunday) was great for him."
Patterson is vying for the starting power forward job. His shooting ability on a team that needs to improve its perimeter scoring is intriguing when he is paired with center DeMarcus Cousins in the post.
But Patterson's career average of 4.4 rebounds is a concern. Cousins draws a lot of attention as one of the best rebounders in the league, and having another consistent rebounder would help.
"I know rebounding is something I haven't proven myself in yet," Patterson said. "But every time I go out there now, I want to focus on going to the glass offensively and defensively, and just being someone my teammates can rely on at any given time."
Patterson said he aims for eight to 10 rebounds per game as a starter.
That doesn't diminish his shooting, which gives the Kings options offensively and contrasts with returning starter Jason Thompson's game. Patterson's three-point shooting ability spreads the floor on offense and forces defenses to scramble to find him, especially when he's hot, as he was Sunday.
"I was putting him in different spots on the floor," Malone said. "Usually, teams like to help big for big in pick-and-rolls. And if you put him out there and they leave him, he's a viable threat to knock down the shot. He gives us a lot of options in the post or in pick-and-rolls."
Patterson wasn't concerned about his preseason shooting struggles. It didn't hurt that he had 14 points in the first half Sunday and looked to be in a good rhythm.
"Coaches were encouraging me from the sidelines, saying even if I miss it to still keep shooting," Patterson said. "Teammates were doing the same thing. (I'm) not trying to be too selfish, just trying to capitalize on my opportunities, and if I'm open, shoot the ball."
Patterson also played center against the Blazers, who weren't going to run their offense through their centers.
That negates problems Patterson, 6-foot-9, might have defending bigger players while forcing the opposing player to find him spaced out on the floor when the Kings have the ball.
"Sometimes I can play (center), depending on who it is," Patterson said. " Whenever coach wants me to do that, I'm more than willing to do it."
Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.