One of the biggest question marks heading into this Sacramento Kings season is whether Ben McLemore can improve and provide the consistent shooting the team needs.
Granted it was a small sample size, McLemore didn't show too many signs of progress in the preseason - averaging 6.1 points, 1 assist and 1 rebound in 21 minutes per game over six games. (But most concerning, he shot 27 percent from the field.) With James Anderson and Marco Belinelli also on the roster, and the opportunity to play Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison at the same time in the backcourt, McLemore is going to have his fair share of competition for minutes. Following Wednesday's practice, Kings head coach George Karl admitted he will likely reduce McLemore's minutes from last season and also expressed some disappointment in his performance thus far.
"I can't deny that I wish Ben would have played better. But he's a young guy that I think it's the first time he has a competitive situation for minutes. In the end, it will make him a much better player," Karl said. "He might not enjoy it as much if he doesn't play. I mean, he played 2,600 minutes last year. I don't think Ben is going to play 2,600 minutes on this team."
Karl went on to say this doesn't mean McLemore, who is entering his third season in the NBA, won't be a big and important part of the team this season and believes he will eventually find his rhythm. But further solidifying some concern over the Kansas product, Karl suggested McLemore can get lost in the flow of the game at times.
"I think our style is to play random, equal opportunity, flow basketball and so maybe the veteran guys or the guys that have what I call savvy, knowing how to get open, when to get open, when to cut, when not to cut. I think Ben might be below the curve of that," Karl said. "But that's a young player searching for the betterment of his skills."
Karl said the coaching staff is trying to work with McLemore on speeding up his decision-making and shot selection. Over the summer McLemore told Sactown Royalty that he needed to be more consistent on both sides of the ball and to not get down on himself if he misses shots. On Wednesday, McLemore told reporters that he has been asking Rondo and Belinelli questions about how to improve.
"I'm still young, I'm still learning the game, asking Marco that's been in the game for a long time and he's helping me with different spots on the floor. He's a great guy that can move without the ball and he's been helping me with that a lot," said McLemore, who spent Tuesday evening watching film on Richard Hamilton and how he moved without the ball.
With the season set to begin next Wednesday, McLemore is entering a pivotal time in his career and under a coach like Karl, he will need to prove he belongs.