Ray McCallum makes do of D-League opportunity

Ray McCallum finishes with a breakaway dunk against the Phoenix Suns in preseason. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)Unlike rookie counterpart Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum has played sparingly in his first NBA campaign. McCallum appeared in five of the Kings’ seven preseason games, but has yet to see action in a regular season contest. With minutes at a premium in Sacramento, Kings brass decided to send this year’s 36th overall pick to the D-League for assignment.

In three games with the Reno Bighorns, McCallum averaged a team-high 22 points, five rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.33 steals in 38 minutes per contest. He led the Kings’ D-League affiliate in all three games he played, which included a 28-point effort against the Sioux Fouls Skyforce on Nov. 22.

McCallum was recalled from the Bighorns last Wednesday and spoke with Cowbell Kingdom last night about his time spent in the minors.

CK: How was the experience?

RM: It was good. Going down there, getting some minutes. I hadn’t played in a while, so just went down there with the mindset of be aggressive and play my game. I was overall pretty pleased with my performance.

CK: With the Kings running basketball operations for the Bighorns, there’s obviously a synergy between the two teams. But still, they’re two different situations and I’m sure going to Reno was a bit of an adjustment. What was the transition like for you?

RM: It was definitely different. But I mean at the end of the day, it’s basketball. I’m a basketball player, so any situation that I’m thrown in, any environment, I feel like I can play whatever the condition or situation is and that wasn’t going to affect me. One good thing about the Kings taking part (and) owning the team basically is we run the same offense, so everything was fine. All the sets and everything were the same things that we run up here, which made it a lot easier on my teammates down there. The coaching staff was great. They let me play my game and got along with all the players and just made it the best experience that I could.

CK: A few of your teammates in Reno – Trent Lockett, DeQuan Jones and Brandon Heath – were with you here in Sacramento during training camp. Did having a familiarity with those guys help ease the transition for you?

RM: Yeah, no definitely. D.J., Trent and Brandon – we were with those guys probably maybe a month, two months it seems like. And so I built a good relationship with those guys while they were here with us. And then going down there playing with them, it was like I was just with them so we gelled really well. And we had a good feel for one another’s game on the court so it made it that much better.

CK:  You played pretty well during your three-game stint. Did you get the sense that the Bighorns coaching staff gave you a lot of freedom to do your thing while you were there?

RM:  Yeah, I mean pretty much. They told me to go down there, play three games, come down there, just be aggressive and play my game. Basically the coach (Joel Abelson), he showed me all the plays and everything. It’s the same system, so they just were telling me go out there, have fun, take advantage of the opportunity and that’s what I tried to do.

CK: Are you anticipating going back to Reno anytime soon?

RM: Honestly, I have no idea. The situation was basically “Ray we want you to get some minutes. You haven’t played in over a month, so we want you to go down there and play three games. You’ll come right back and you’ll be with us.” So I went down there, played the three games, made the best of it. (I) kind of got to see where my game was and came right back. I’m right back here, so I don’t know anything else. That’s all I know.

CK: The competition in the D-League is definitely different than the NBA, but so is the lifestyle. Going down for an assignment, what was life like in the D-League for you in comparison to the NBA?

RM: It’s definitely a huge difference. But more than anything, it’s a humbling experience for me just to see how much different the NBA and the D-League is. And it makes you really appreciate everything you have up here, so it kind of opened my eyes to that. But overall, it’s just not the NBA. It definitely makes you hungry to stay in the NBA and to call the NBA your home.

CK: You got a chance to go out there and get some playing time after not seeing much action here in Sacramento. Overall, are you happy about the experience and did you feel like you improved from it?

RM: I mean yeah. At the end of the day, I’ve always said (I’d do) whatever’s best to help the team and if they felt like it was the best thing for myself and the team, then that’s something that I have to do. So to go down there and play a couple games and (I) just had to do what I had to do.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.