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McLemore’s patience, hard work pay off with starts for Kings

Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) goes to the basket against Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis on Friday at Golden 1 Center . McLemore scored 10 points in 22 minutes .
Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) goes to the basket against Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis on Friday at Golden 1 Center . McLemore scored 10 points in 22 minutes . hamezcua@sacbee.com

It can be easy to get tired of doing the right things.

Ben McLemore was praised for doing all the right things during the offseason. As his name remained in trade rumors, McLemore worked hard on his game to the point that the Kings no longer shopped him.

Still, McLemore found it hard to get on the court this season, falling from seldom used to out of the rotation.

McLemore, however, said his confidence never wavered.

15.9 Ben McLemore’s minutes per game this season, a career low, entering Friday night

“I’ve just got to go out there and when my name’s called be ready to play,” McLemore said. “Not worry about making a turnover or things like that, just play ball.”

McLemore is getting the chance to play ball, making his second straight start of the season Friday when the Kings hosted the New York Knicks at Golden 1 Center. He had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting (2 of 2 from 3-point range) in 22 minutes in Sacramento’s 103-100 loss.

In the Kings’ 120-89 victory at Dallas on Wednesday, McLemore scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting (1 of 6 from long range) in 21 minutes.

This is an important season for the fourth-year guard. He’ll be eligible for free agency at the end of the season. The Kings plan to make him a qualifying offer, which would give Sacramento the right to match an offer sheet from another team.

But entering the most important offseason of his career financially, McLemore is averaging career lows of 15.9 minutes and 6.6 points per game.

The season was shaping up much like last season’s frustrating campaign, in which the Kings brought in free agents to play McLemore’s position. This past summer, it was Arron Afflalo and Garrett Temple who would take minutes from McLemore.

Much like second-year center Willie Cauley-Stein, McLemore had to wait to get back into the rotation while the veterans got their chance.

“Young guys, we spend a lot of time working with them, watching video of their own play and also the stuff we’re talking about team-wise,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “So those guys have worked really hard.”

McLemore replaced Afflalo in the starting lineup Wednesday, with Joerger saying he’d earned the opportunity based on his hard work.

McLemore said his teammates and coaches have been great at keeping him engaged and ready to play.

“My motto has been when I wasn’t playing, just stay ready (so) I don’t have to get ready,” McLemore said. “And I’ve been ready; I’ve been working my butt off. I’ve been working on my game, and I was ready and prepared.”

Throughout the season, coaches have remained pleased with McLemore’s attitude, even on nights he did not play. McLemore, 23, still has a lot of room for growth, so even when he’s not playing, the Kings like his potential.

My motto has been when I wasn’t playing, just stay ready (so) I don’t have to get ready. And I’ve been ready; I’ve been working my butt off. I’ve been working on my game, and I was ready and prepared.

Kings guard Ben McLemore

“If you take that view on it and don’t get mired into what’s right in front of you, whether it’s good or not good, if you’re in or you’re out, I think it puts you a little bit more at peace,” Joerger said.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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