From the moment the Kings’ Draft Day pursuit of Ben McLemore ended with him slipping to the seventh spot in 2013, the team has tried to create an atmosphere to foster success. Early in the season, that meant bringing McLemore off the bench so he wouldn’t have to deal with playing against other starters as much and the figurative lumps he would take. It also meant leaving McLemore on the court through defensive mistakes as a sign that the coaching staff believed in him. Perhaps the biggest move came in February, when the Kings traded veteran guard Marcus Thornton to the Brooklyn Nets. That freed the starting shooting guard spot for McLemore, who has responded with his best stretch this month, playing with a self-belief that wasn’t apparent earlier in the season. McLemore was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November, a month in which other top rookies were injured or not playing. McLemore is playing better now to close his rookie season. “It definitely helped me build my confidence,” McLemore said of the Thornton deal. “It’s an opportunity for me. Why not take it? That’s what I did, and I just want to keep doing that. I’m not finished. I just want to keep working and finish this season out strong and in the offseason work on my weaknesses.” That confidence is revealed in a more assertive McLemore on offense. He’s averaging 9.8 points on 43.9 percent shooting in 13 games in March, both season highs for a month. McLemore shot 30.1 percent last month, with 6.6 points per game. Even as McLemore struggled with his offense, he was encouraged to not shy away from good shots. “I told him, ‘If you feel a shot, you shoot it – that’s what you do, you shoot the ball,’ ” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “And he started doing that.” Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore’s improvement is a result of his hard work. McLemore regularly arrives early or stays after practice to work with coaches and will call coaches for workouts on off days.
McLemore finally settles in as Kings’ shooting guard
Sacramento Bee | Mar 28