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Ray McCallum takes charge – and lumps – as Kings fall to 76ers

Sacramento Kings guard Ray McCallum (3) directs his teammates during his team's game against the Phoenix Suns at Sleep Train Arena on Sun., Feb. 8, 2015.
Sacramento Kings guard Ray McCallum (3) directs his teammates during his team's game against the Phoenix Suns at Sleep Train Arena on Sun., Feb. 8, 2015. hamezcua@sacbee.com

One King who doesn’t have to worry about having the opportunity to play is point guard Ray McCallum.

Darren Collison is more than likely out for the rest of the season and coach George Karl would prefer not to tax veteran Andre Miller with excessive minutes.

So that leaves McCallum, the second-year pro, with plenty of time to learn Karl’s offensive system and help promote passing and lower the turnover total with smart decisions.

McCallum has started all 12 games since Karl has taken over as coach, including Friday night’s 114-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

“Ray’s in a great place because we don’t have a lot of options,” Karl said. “I could go ahead and play Nik (Stauskas) at point some, but I don’t know if I’m ready to do that. Andre is a veteran player that you don’t want to use up the gas all of the time. I’m very happy with Ray.”

McCallum was in a similar position last season when he became a starter late in the season because of an injury.

This time, McCallum is directing a new system. That’s led to some struggles, but after recording nine assists with no turnovers in Wednesday’s win at Charlotte, McCallum said he was starting to feel comfortable directing the offense.

“The game is starting to slow down for me and I have a lot of weapons out there on the offensive end, so getting assists shouldn’t be an issue,” McCallum said. “I’m just getting a lot more comfortable with my reads and finding guys. Trying to find guys where the shots are easier for them. The game is really slowing down for me and I’m starting to get a better feel for the offense and making my reads.”

Karl said the challenge for a point guard in his system is to try to play at a fast pace, but not rush into mistakes.

McCallum is making progress in that area.

“I think when you try to speed a team up they think fast is the only gear,” Karl said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t have to go fast. Your spacing and how fast you get up the court has to be fast. But once you get into a scoring area you want to have common sense and make good basketball decisions and you want to be a low turnover team.”

McCallum said not playing as fast has helped him adapt to the system. That, coupled with good spacing, are keys to cutting down turnovers and getting better shots.

“(Karl) wants to play at a fast pace, but at the same time I’ve still got to slow down on pick and rolls and that’s something I’ve tried to do, slow down on pick and rolls and just make the right play, the simple play,” McCallum said. “And I’ve got a lot of great support on this team to make it a lot easier on me.”

It’s becoming harder to take solace in progress when the Kings continue to lose. Friday’s loss dropped the Kings to 4-8 under Karl, and 2-5 on this trip.

The Kings hurt themselves with 18 turnovers, leading to 27 points for Philadelphia.

The loss was the Kings’ 42nd of the season, assuring the Kings of a ninth consecutive losing season.

“It’s tough to gain confidence in the system when you’re still on the same path,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “We’ve just got to keep working, keep trying to understand it and keep trying to get better.”

Cousins led the Kings with 39 points and a career-high 24 rebounds. He became just the fifth player since the 1985-86 season with at least 39 points and 24 rebounds.

The last was Chris Webber (51 points, 26 rebounds) against Indiana Jan. 5, 2001.

The other players were Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Joe Barry Carroll.

Cousins wasn’t taking any joy in his statistics after the game.

“I did all that in an ‘L’ so it doesn’t matter,” he said.

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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