The Kings would love it if rookie Nik Stauskas didn’t act so much like a ... rookie.
Sure, there are times when there’s no getting around that Stauskas is a rookie. That’s right, don’t forget to bring those doughnuts, rook.
But on the court, Stauskas is one of five guys, and the Kings want him to contribute.
His 30.2 shooting percentage this season? So what? Keep shooting. And don’t let the 25 percent accuracy from three-point range be an impediment.
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Stauskas was drafted by the Kings to put up shots.
“Shoot the damn ball,” was center DeMarcus Cousins’ advice. “He hesitates so much, and I think he’s worried about if he’s going to miss. I keep telling him, ‘Nobody on the team will be mad if you miss a shot – that’s what you do. If you miss, shoot it again.’ But everybody knows it’s tough for a rookie, just finding that knack and staying consistent. Nik will be fine.”
Coach Michael Malone said of Stauskas : “Right now, he’s being way too passive out there at times. If he’s going to make a mistake, make it a mistake out of aggression, trying to make a play.”
No one knows this better than Stauskas, who has the blueprint for improvement but is struggling to put it into action.
“Trusting the work that I put in,” is what Stauskas said he needs to do. “At this point, it’s all mental because I’ve put in the work that I need to put in. I’m working hard every day, and eventually things are going to go my way.”
The rookie’s passive tendencies, coupled with solid play from Ben McLemore, have led to inconsistent playing time for Stauskas. His best game might have been the Kings’ double-overtime win at Phoenix on Nov. 7, when Stauskas matched his season high of nine points in a season-high 29 minutes.
Malone praised Stauskas’ play on offense and defense in the win. Since then, Stauskas has shot 3 of 14 for eight points over seven games.
“I think sometimes I put a little too much pressure on myself to do well and not make mistakes, and I think that’s a problem when you go out there and you’re trying not to make mistakes,” Stauskas said. “That’s when mistakes end up happening.”
Coaches and teammates have told Stauskas not to worry about mistakes. But since his aggressive start to the preseason, when the rookie willingly went at Toronto guards DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams as they attacked him, Stauskas hasn’t shown the same fight consistently.
“If a player knows his coach has confidence in him and wants him to shoot, there should be no hesitation,” Malone said. “There should be no holding back. Let it fly.”
Stauskas said he knows his teammates trust him; he just has to trust himself.
“Try to understand that I’m a rookie and mistakes are going to be made; people expect me to make mistakes in my rookie year,” Stauskas said. “So just go out there, listen to what the coaches say, be aggressive and play my game, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Malone’s support for Stauskas is unwavering. He didn’t expect the rookie’s season to be smooth, because rookies are prone to inconsistency.
“People in the NBA don’t know it yet, but they will: Nik Stauskas is a hell of a basketball player, and I just want him to go out there and play,” Malone said. “Right now, he’s just there, and that’s my biggest challenge to him. Fight on the defensive end, be aggressive and look to make plays on the offensive end.”