Ben McLemore was the first pick of the new regime in Sacramento. Now his rookie contract’s up and his future with the team is unclear. He spoke with Sactown Royalty towards the end of the season about his time here and what the future holds for him.
Kimani Okearah: You came into the NBA 4 years ago after 1 year at Kansas. Was that first year a lot of bright lights? We you star struck from competing against the idols we grew up with like Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant?
Ben McLemore: It didn't last very long. After [the first few games], it was like 'Hey. I've gotta just go out there, find my role, and play.' It was definitely a great experience, my rookie year. Each year I've improved, understanding the game, watched a lot of film, learn, got better, and matured. It was hard work and a lot of dedication, saying 'Hey, I've got to get better every day.'
KO: You came from nothing, like so many of us, to having your personal economy change overnight. What did that feel like?
BM: A lot of hard work over years paid off. It's something I worked hard for, and makes it easy to continue to [work hard]. Especially now, having a baby girl. I've been playing this game for a long time. I'm still young, still learning the game of basketball. I just had a daughter and that's all new to me. To be in the situation I am now is a blessing and a result of hard work.
KO: The game has changed since your first year in the NBA. Do you think the style is better suited for players with your skill-set now than it was four years ago?
BM: Honestly, the changes... It's nothing that's really big. It's the game of basketball. Be the best you can be, and keep building yourself.
KO: What kind of advice have you been giving the young guys (Skal Labissiere & Georgios Papagiannis) who have come from a similar background to yourself? They're 19, coming from very little, into millions of dollars and the public eye. What kind of advice have you shared on how to play and how to adapt to the culture?
BM: We're presenting the game of basketball. If you want to get better, you have to be humble and work.
KO: You played a lot of minutes at the 3 this season, much more so than in previous years. If a team asked you to play there and start you at the 3, how do you feel about that?
BM: Pshh yeah, if a team asked me to play there, I would do it. I defend the 3 position well. I'm definitely comfortable. It's been a great year.
(Basketballreference.com estimates Ben played at the 2 for 82% of his minutes this season. Using discretion, we'll assume that the 18% of those remaining minutes were spent at the 3 position, the highest ratio in McLemore's career thus far. For reference, McLemore played 13% of his minutes in the 2015-16 campaign at the 3 position, up from 4% in 2014-15).
KO: Have anything to say to the fans who want you back in Sacramento next season?
BM: It's been a great year and thanks, a lot!