In a matter of seconds, rookie guard Ben McLemore showed off many of the attributes the Kings need and that he adds.

In the second quarter of Saturday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, forward Dorrel Wright appeared on his way to the basket for an easy layup.

But McLemore tracked down Wright and swatted the ball off the backboard and was called for goaltending.

The Blazers picked up two points, but McLemore showed off the athleticism, hustle and desire to compete that the Kings have been lacking for long stretches this season. It’s partly why McLemore could stake his claim to a starting role tonight when the Kings host the Brooklyn Nets.

“Nobody else on our team can make that kind of play,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “He’s a special athlete; he has a great work ethic. He’s doing all the little things.”

McLemore has come off the bench the first six games of his career as Malone seeks to build his confidence and keep pressure off him.

But since the start of training camp, McLemore has not lacked confidence.

Malone has promised changes to his starting lineup and would not say Tuesday that McLemore is one of those changes. But Malone has continually praised McLemore since the preseason.

“Ben is such a big part of our team now and probably more importantly for our future,” Malone said. “He’s going to be a big part of this team moving forward. And the way he played coming off the bench last game, shooting the ball with confidence, making plays, he’s our best athlete. He’s definitely one of the few bright spots in a very dismal 1-5 season.”