When the Kings said they'd begin playing Ray McCallum ahead of Jimmer Fredette after the All-Star Break, there were some predictable reactions -- namely that the decision was a basketball crime against Fredette.
McCallum, however, has quickly earned the trust of his coaches, playing key minutes in the second half again during the Kings' 96-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Monday at Sleep Train Arena to end a three-game losing streak.
McCallum had eight points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal and no turnovers.
Kings coach Michael Malone cannot praise McCallum enough:
"I loved how Ray McCallum played tonight. For me, Ray is growing up in front of our eyes. The last couple of games he played meaningful minutes, making big plays and showing no fear. He was stepping up and taking big shots--even if he didn't make a couple I love that he steps up without any hesitation. They tried to post him up and go at him with Tyreke Evans, but I think that people are going to realize that Ray McCallum can guard. He can guard the one, two, and some threes."
McCallum had five rebounds, two rebounds, an assist and a steal while playing the entire fourth quarter.
After the game, Malone pulled McCallum aside to offer some encouragement:
"I just said 'I'm so proud of you, you're growing up and all of your hard work this year--you're going to get your opportunity.' Every day I told him to keep on working and that he'd get his opportunity. He never hung his head or felt sorry for himself, he continued to work hard and learn. Now, he's putting all of that to great use and it's just a great story. I'm excited about who he is and who he is becoming right in front of our eyes."
It's the Kings' key players with the bulk of the turnovers. DeMarcus Cousins had six tonight. Isaiah Thomas had five and Rudy Gay had four.
"We make it hard on ourselves," Malone said. "We make it interesting and entertaining. At some point, we'll hopefully get back to being a team that values the basketball."