In a season that was never about wins to begin with, at least in the eyes of the Kings brass, and with the playoffs clearly out of sight, a couple of players are taking advantage of their chance to shine in the remaining games on the schedule.
We've already discussed the opportunity that Ben McLemore now has with Marcus Thornton in Brooklyn, but Ray McCallum and the newly acquired Reggie Evans are beginning to make the most of this final stretch.
Nothing illustrated that more than both of their performances Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. Evans, in only his fifth game with the Kings, scored 10 points, had 13 rebounds and a block. Though it is a small sample size of five games, Evans is currently averaging more points (6) and rebounds (8.8) than his career averages (4.1 points and 7.2 rebounds). McCallum scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds and tallied 2 assists to go along with one steal. But it wasn't just the numbers on Monday, it was the way in which he and McCallum outworked the Pelicans and sparked the Kings to victory.
For McCallum, the story of his opportunity is the payoff from a season-long effort of watching film, learning from teammates and focusing on what the team needs.
For Evans, it's the same story, different channel - this is what he does. Evans is a blue-collar type of worker and has been that over his decade-plus career with seven different teams.
Head coach Michael Malone said in the postgame press conference that he hopes the energy of guys like McCallum, Evans and Quincy Acy rubs off on the rest of the team, including the starters. There's no doubt that a team full of players with the determination that Evans and McCallum have shown in their short time with extended minutes would be advantageous.
Below are some comments from both McCallum and Evans made to the media, including Sactown Royalty and our friends over at Cowbell Kingdom, after Monday's game and other recent games.
What he can bring to the Kings: "Veteran leadership and just an attitude of just never quitting … understanding your role for the team and just doing it to the best."
On if he felt like he would have an impact like this so soon: "You always feel like you can have an impact when you work hard at your craft, you know. So one thing, I don't just sit on my butt and just wait for something to come to me. Even when I was not playing in Brooklyn, I still was grinding hard, grinding in practice, after practice, before practice, before the games…"
When asked if his offense is underrated, he had a pretty level-headed response: "I ain't going to say that because I've been more of a rebounder and defender than anything." "So I don't look at it being underrated or overrated or nothing, just look at it as in doing what it takes to get a win."
On setting an example for the young players: "That's the main thing, you know, not just on game day, practice also too; just how you approach practice. How you approach film sessions, you know, and those are the main things on an everyday basis. It's all part of being a professional and stuff like that. And just respecting the game of basketball. It goes by so quick, before you know it you'll be done playing and you want to look back at it just knowing that you went so hard and you gave it everything you had so, you know, hopefully that can rub off on the younger guys."
When asked what has been working in Sacramento, he didn't note anything different in his game, but did have this to say: "I know one thing, this crowd is amazing. You know, for us to be in this predicament they real loyal crowd, they want to win. And the support system is great, I love it. You know, so it don't get no better than that."
On his welcome to Sacramento: "When I got traded, you know, on my Twitter account and stuff, a lot of remarks from the Kings saying they was happy to have me here and stuff like that so that was great, you know, that was like my introduction showing they was happy to have me so I couldn't beat that at all."
On coming from a playoff team to a non-playoff team: "It's tough, but at the same time, the records ain't too far apart. You know, it's just that one team is in the East, one team is in the West. You know, but record-wise it's almost no different."
On what he focuses on in games: "Just being able to run the team; finding the hot hand; getting the ball inside; getting the ball to our shooters; just playing the strengths of our game; and just understanding the flow and tempo of the game; and just having composure out there; take care of the ball; be aggressive on defense."
On what has helped him on defense: "Obviously, I am guarding Isaiah Thomas every day in practice and that's definitely a tough matchup; guarding Jimmer [Fredette] earlier this year, guard Rudy [Gay] sometimes, Derrick [Williams] and Ben [McLemore]. Play a lot of one on one, a lot of three on three, maybe that's what it is. But also, all year I've just been watching. Sitting on the bench when I watch the game I kind of treat that as watching film and just kind of watch and learn how players play. And coming off the bench I kind of get some of their tendencies."
He takes all of the roster changes this season as an opportunity to play with multiple players: "Being a young guy, each and every player whose, you know, been a part of this team and been one of my teammates this year, I try to pick their brains as much as I can and learn from them and watch and see everything that they have done to be successful at this level."
On his time with the Reno Bighorns this season: "I mean think it helped, going down there get the opportunity to play. That's what I think the biggest thing is, just getting on the court and playing. Going down there I got to play, you know, 30 minutes a game and just go out there and play free and with a lot of confidence and now I'm getting an opportunity..."
On being teammates with Jimmer Fredette: "Jimmer and I were good friends, he was a good guy and he was always someone easy to talk to. He helped me out a lot. You know, I used to pick his brain all the time. Ben and I would always sit down before games and talk about everything with him. He was a great teammate and a great guy and I wish him a lot of success." "Definitely learned a lot from him, how much time he put into his shot and he's a one-of-a-kind shooter, but hopefully one day just keep working and try to get close to that level."
On his relationship with fellow rookie Ben McLemore: "Ben and I are real close on and off the court so to have somebody, you know, we have such strong chemistry together it makes it that much more easier and that much more fun to play together at the same time on the court. Watching him play all year, I kinda can tell where and how he likes to get the basketball and what kind of shots he likes so it's easy for me to come in and try to find him and try to get him a couple of easy buckets to get going."
On the Kings' front office: "I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with everyone in the organization and one thing that they're giving me is making me feel more confident, just telling me to go out there and play my game, play through my mistakes, that's the only way you're going to get better by playing and learning."
And Michael Malone
On McCallum: "Obviously, he's a coach's son, his father did a hell of a job with him, but whether it's our system or somebody else's system, Ray McCallum is a good defensive player no matter what system you put him in."
On Evans: "Reggie Evans embraces his role. We don't call one play for him, but his best offense is a missed shot. Moses Malone, every shot taken is a pass to me, he goes and gets it. And then defensively, you know, he covers up for other people's mistakes."