Despite slow start, rookie Nik Stauskas still confident


The life of an NBA rookie is not for the faint of heart.  After the glitz and glamour of draft night, it becomes a whirlwind of travel, workouts and for many, learning to adjust to a new, completely foreign role.

Sacramento Kings first-round pick Nik Stauskas is off to a slow start.  He is quickly losing minutes to second-year guard Ben McLemore, who went through similar struggles last season.  He looks tired – maybe a little under the weather – and the sweet-shooting stroke that helped land him the eighth spot in the 2014 NBA Draft is missing in action.

“I’m feeling good,” Stauskas told Cowbell Kingdom from this locker room stall on Sunday.  “A lot of the time, shots that I normally make haven’t been dropping, but it’s just about finding a rhythm and staying confident.”

In his first 17 games as a pro, Stauskas is averaging just 2.9 points in 13.6 minutes per night.  He is shooting just 24.3 percent from long range and 31.6 percent overall.

For a team that ranks last in the league in made 3-pointers (78) and 26th in 3-point percentage at 31.8, it needs Stauskas to find the stroke that lit up the NCAA last season.

In his sophomore season at Michigan, the 21-year-old shooting guard went 92-for-208 from distance for a sparkling 44.2 percent.  But as the star of his team, he averaged 5.8 3-balls in nearly 36 minutes per game.

“I think it’s just finding a balance,” Stauskas said.  “For a guy like me, I know I’m not going to get that many opportunities, so when I do, I just have to be aggressive with the ones I have and make the most of them.”

Per 36 minutes with the Kings this season, Stauskas is shooting the exact same 5.8 3-pointers per game, but it’s in a completely different role.  Sacramento needs a set shooter who can open the floor for Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins as opposed to a high-volume scorer.

The adjustment hasn’t been easy for the young guard.  While coach Michael Malone has prodded both he and McLemore to shoot when they are open, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“Sometimes when you’re not getting the ball as much as you’re used to, you start to hesitate,” the rookie said.  “You don’t know when to take those opportunities, whereas normally, you don’t think; you just play the games.  I think that’s all it is for me specifically, just not thinking about it and just going out and doing what I know how to do.”

Rookie struggles are going to happen, but Stauskas is working hard behind the scenes.  While his shot hasn’t been falling in games, he hasn’t lost the touch completely.

“Every day in practice, I’m still shooting the ball well,” Stauskas said.  “Going through our workouts, I’m still shooting the ball well.  It’s just a matter of getting a few shots to drop in a game.”

Over his last two games, Stauskas has gone scoreless in 14 total minutes.  After not taking a single shot against the Spurs on Friday, he missed all four of his attempts on Sunday against the Grizzlies.  He has yet to score in double figures and Stauskas has gone scoreless in nine of 17 contests.

Despite the early season struggles, the Canadian-born shooter is living a fantasy.  He is an NBA player.  The Kings are winning and maybe more importantly, the culture in the Sacramento locker room has been great for a young player.

“I love it,” he said.  “I wake up every morning and I get to play basketball for a living.  I don’t have to go to school anymore, I don’t have to do all of those little things.  For me, this is a dream come true and really enjoy it.  The road trips with the team and traveling and all that, it’s just part of it.  I’m enjoying every minute of it.”