Sacramento Kings veterans ease NBA transition for Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum

Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore share laughs on the sidelines. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

For most players, the transition to the NBA is not an easy one. Getting acclimated to the speed of the pros and the length of an 82-game schedule is not something that happens overnight for a rookie. Fortunately for Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, they had teammates who were more than willing to lend them a helping hand.

The two Sacramento Kings guards went through a roller coaster ride of a rookie season. McLemore struggled with defensive concepts and had trouble finding his shot all year long. Meanwhile, McCallum rode the bench for much of the season and had to keep himself prepared for when opportunity finally knocked.

Through it all, they had teammates encouraging them along the way. Both will say the mentoring they received was a collective effort from all of their teammates, but there were a few guys who made an additional effort to keep them engaged.

Rudy Gay was one of the men who challenged them to stay dedicated to the process. Though the veteran small forward was a late addition to the Kings’ roster, he wasted no time taking on a mentorship role with two of his new teammates.

“You know, since Rudy came along, he’s been talking me (through the) ropes (about) this league and the NBA,” McLemore said of the 27-year-old forward before playing his final game of the season last month.

McCallum, oftentimes, went to Gay for advice, picking the the veteran’s brain following his arrival from Toronto last December. The 22-year-old point guard knew that he could rely on Gay as a sounding board throughout his first season in the league.

“He was real helpful for me,” McCallum said of Gay. “Kind of took me under his wing a lot and always really helpful. I could always ask him any questions and he would always call out, point out things with me. We’d watch film together and he was great for me to have.”

Isaiah Thomas was also a valuable source of information for his rookie teammates. Though they play the same position, Thomas didn’t keep McCallum at an arm’s distance, instead letting his rookie teammate come to him for advice throughout the season.

“All year, Isaiah worked with me a lot,” McCallum said of his 25-year-old teammate. “I always picked his brain and watched him, learned from him. We’d watch film and he’s constantly on the sideline trying to help me out.”

When McCallum took over the reins at point guard in the Kings starting lineup, DeMarcus Cousins reached out to his rookie teammate. Cousins, who took steps this past season to become a better leader for the Kings, reminded McCallum that he and fellow teammates were there to cover up his inexperience.

“He’s (been) a big part of it too, especially when I got my opportunity to play,” McCallum said of the 23-year-old center. “Kept me confident and let me know that he had my back and that was big.”

A player’s first year in the NBA is not typically a smooth journey. Luckily for McCallum and McLemore, they had a group of teammates who were willing to make the ride a little less bumpy.


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.

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