Rookie McLemore impresses Kings

11/05/2013 12:00 AM

11/05/2013 5:19 PM

The Kings' loss at Golden State on Saturday night was one they would like to forget.

Their effort was questionable, they trailed by 27 points, and their coach deemed it a "miracle" they lost by only 11.

The lone bright spot was the play of first-round draft pick Ben McLemore. After scoring six points combined in his first two NBA games, McLemore had 19 against the Warriors, prompting coach Michael Malone to say: "The most exciting thing was Ben McLemore."

McLemore's play and effort continue to excite coaches, who look forward to seeing him grow as a player.

McLemore is quickly earning a reputation as a hard worker and a player willing to work on defense – two things Malone holds in high regard.

"I'm just going out there playing my game and having fun," McLemore said. "At the same time, I'm out there competing and doing what coach wants me to do, and that's be aggressive on both sides of the floor."

The 6-foot-5 guard looked solid in the preseason and has accepted a reserve role as he adjusts to the NBA.

"He's done everything we've asked," Malone said. "And what I told him after practice was I love his work ethic and the work habits that he has. I said, 'I hope they never change because if you continue to work this hard and do all the right things, your future is very, very bright.' "

The Kings have been looking for improved shooting, and McLemore already is one of the team's better perimeter shooters.

The issue is figuring out where to play McLemore. He could see more minutes at shooting guard or be used in spots as a small forward.

The message of being aggressive remains, regardless of where McLemore plays.

For now, Malone will continue to bring McLemore off the bench to avoid putting too much pressure on him.

Malone likes the idea of the rookie coming in against reserves and having the freedom to be aggressive.

"The bottom line is, whether he starts or comes off the bench right now, Ben is a big part of our future," Malone said. "And I have to continue to show confidence in him and give him an opportunity whether it's at (shooting guard) or (small forward), and he's deserving of that opportunity."

McLemore said he doesn't mind dealing with small forwards, against whom it's sometimes tougher defensively.

"It's just competition," McLemore said. "I just want to go out there and compete and showcase my athleticism and my skill set. I just go out there and play. And whatever coach wants me to do defensively I'll do."

McLemore's athleticism could be a boost to the struggling offense.

If the Kings can play better defense and ignite their offense via fast breaks, McLemore has the ability to finish at the rim or shoot 3-pointers.

"That's what coach wants," McLemore said. "If we get some stops, (we can) start the break, make some plays and have some fast-break points. Just get out and go."

TONIGHT'S GAME

Kings (1-2) vs. Hawks (1-2)

Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Sleep Train Arena

TV: CSNCA Radio: 1140

THREE KEYS

Corralling Korver: Atlanta guard Kyle Korver has made a 3-pointer in 76 consecutive games, the fourth- longest streak in NBA history. He has made 46.7 percent of his 3-point attempts over that span, so the Kings can't afford to leave him open.

Faster starts: The Kings have fallen behind early in their past two games – both losses. The starters need to begin the game and second half much better.

Loud and clear: Sacramento must do a better job communicating on defense, from calling out coverages to getting back in transition. The Kings have to be vocal and get to the right spots.

PROBABLE STARTERS

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

10 Greivis Vasquez G

23 Marcus Thornton G

5 John Salmons F

9 Patrick Patterson F

15 DeMarcus Cousins C

HAWKS

No. Player Pos.

0 Jeff Teague G

26 Kyle Korver G

5 DeMarre Carroll F

4 Paul Millsap F

15 Al Horford C

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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