– The way Ray McCallum finished his rookie season had Kings coaches and management excited.
It wasn’t enough to stop the Kings from looking for help at point guard this offseason.
The second-round pick out of Detroit Mercy was one of the highlights late in the 2013-14 season. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.3 assists and just 1.9 turnovers in 10 starts for injured starter Isaiah Thomas.
Still, the Kings added a veteran point guard, agreeing to a deal with Darren Collison last week.
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McCallum showed promise, but he also struggled with his shooting in those starts (36.5 percent) and still has room to improve as a leader. McCallum says he’s worked on his game this offseason and isn’t taking Collison’s addition personally.
“One thing I’ve learned is this is a business,” McCallum said Tuesday after summer league practice at Spring Valley High School. “Some things you can’t control. You can just control yourself. For me, I’m just going to try to be the best player I can be, compete everyday. Whoever I’m on the floor with, just compete and make sure I get better and try to make my team better.”
The Kings want to see improved shooting, decision-making and vocal leadership from McCallum this summer as he prepares for his second NBA season. That was hard for McCallum to do last summer, as a rookie learning a new system and spending most of his first season on the Kings’ bench.
McCallum is already proving to Kings coaches that he’s no longer a rookie.
“He’s a lot more vocal than he was last summer, and that’s something I keep imploring him to be – be vocal, be a leader, run your team and be a coach on the floor,” said Kings coach Michael Malone.
One way McCallum has to show leadership is getting the Kings into the right offense in a timely fashion. The Kings want to speed up their tempo this season, and McCallum will have the opportunity to show that he has embraced that concept.
“The biggest thing for him last year was the (shot) clock,” said Kings assistant coach Chris Jent. “We were so late getting into things, and he understands the clock right now, and right away that helps you out. And also he’s been working his tail off this summer, so now he’s got to apply some of the things he’s worked on.”
Experience is a big part of that improvement. McCallum was asking inexperienced players to run plays he was still learning. Now he is taking the confidence he’s gained in himself – and the confidence his teammates gained in him from last season, and carrying it into this season.
“I know what’s going on out here,” McCallum said. “Last year I didn’t know. This year, no excuse, I know everything that’s going on on the floor, so it’s been easy to come out here, get guys in the right places.”
Perhaps the biggest emphasis for McCallum will be encouraging more ball and player movement, preventing the Kings from becoming stagnant and easy to defend on offense.
“Being a guard who is not so dependent on the dribble but more dependent on the pass and moving that basketball,” Malone said. “And making sure we get proper ball movement at all times. That’s not just on Ray, that’s on all the players on the floor.”
McCallum said he has to do a better job of reading defenses, making sure the floor is spaced and making “a nice, simple play” when needed.
The coaching staff also will monitor McCallum’s decision-making in pick-and-rolls and setting up his teammates.
“It all falls on my shoulders,” McCallum said. “The point guard is the extended coach on the floor. That’s my position, and it’s on me to make sure guys are in the right spot, and it’s on me to make sure we get a good shot every possession. It’s a lot on my shoulders, but it’s something I’ve done my whole life. I’m excited for the challenge and hopefully I can get better with it.”