Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas talk slow starts

Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas have opened the year shooting colder than an arctic breeze. But this hasn’t been a concern for head coach Michael Malone.

“Right now Ben and Nik aren’t shooting the ball with great confidence,” Malone admitted on Wednesday. “They’ve struggled a little bit. My attitude is, I have all the confidence in the world that when they’re open, they’re going to make shots. We have to get them some easy looks.”

Fans have started to grumble about the Kings’ most recent lottery investments. Sacramento, desperate for outside shooting in the offseason, expected the guards to be their primary perimeter threats. Instead, McLemore and Stauskas have become offensive liabilities, their minutes justified by their defensive efforts alone.

McLemore’s aim was inconsistent last season, hitting 37.6 percent of his field goals and 32 percent of his 3-pointers. He entered Wednesday night’s game shooting 26.3 percent from the floor and 30 percent from deep, before scoring 10 points on 3-of-7 field goals facing Aaron Afflalo of the Denver Nuggets (one attempt was a buzzer beater prayer).

The second-year swingman acknowledges his slump, but his approach and routine will remain the same. Hundreds of jumpshots in practice, for one.

“I try to get a lot of quality shots up,” McLemore told Cowbell Kingdom. “Just keep it consistent, don’t try to outwork myself, but at least get quality shots up.”

When pressed, McLemore recalled the last shooting slump that adversely affected his game.

“Before I got to the NBA, in the NCAA tournament I had a quiet shooting slump, and you just have to get your rhythm back, get the feel for the ball,” McLemore said. “Once you see the ball go in, in helps a lot.”

The 21-year-old lost his mojo entering the 2013 tournament and went 0-for-9 in a win versus North Carolina, but he found his groove in their elimination game shooting 8-of-15 for 20 points.

“(I) just try to find easy ways to score, try to create for myself and find the little things to do that,” McLemore explained of his strategy to bounce back. “Get myself out there, comfortable and ready to shoot. Just different ways, drawing fouls and getting to the foul line, fast break points, easy buckets just to get a rhythm going and help me get that shot.”

Stauskas, on the other hand, has an unusual philosophy towards offensive struggles. The rookie, who’s shooting 27.3 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from behind the arc, accepts that bad days are a part of life.

“I really don’t believe in slumps,” Stauskas explained to Cowbell Kingdom. Here’s the way I look at it, if I take three shots in a game, and I miss all three shots, people consider that a slump. If you were just to go into practice and miss three shots in a row, you wouldn’t consider that a slump, would you? It’s all mental.”

The two-guard’s preparation will continue as is.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life.” Stauskas said. “I’ve taken 5 million shots in my life. So nothing really changes at this point. Just locking in mentally and continuing to do what I do.”

Eventually, more will be asked of from McLemore and Stauskas. But their maturity in handling the pressures of a slow start has to be respected.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.