With seven games remaining in his third NBA season, Ben McLemore has yet to live up to the expectations of analysts and scouts, who compared him to Ray Allen and raved about his mouth-watering combination of athleticism and shooting ability.
To be fair, the instability of the franchise and a couple of injuries haven’t helped his development, but those factors don’t justify taking a step backward this season after having a solid sophomore season.
This was the year where he should have taken the next step. He simply didn’t. McLemore is fully aware, and labels his season as “average.”
“It’s way different from last year,” McLemore told Cowbell Kingdom. “I mean everybody can see it.”
He is 100 percent correct. Many Kings fans, people within the organization and other media members see the potential he has. However, his lack of assertiveness and passivity are reflected on the court, and opposing teams have taken advantage.
Throughout the season, there would be nights where the box score would show his minutes, but his stats would reveal something different. He simply disappeared through stretches of games — that is where you need to have the assertiveness to take shots and make your presence felt on the court.
Even if you don’t play well on the offensive end, playing hard-nosed defense would’ve made all the difference. But we didn’t see that either from the super-athletic swingman.
So what was the issue? Many thought Vlade Divac’s additions over the summer would help his development as a player, because that’s normally what competition does. It was quite the contrary, according to McLemore.
“It’s called sacrificing. There was sacrifices that needed to be made,” McLemore told Cowbell Kingdom. “We added a lot of pieces and stuff like that. At the end of the day, I can only control what I can control. I can control going out there and playing my game and playing with confidence and just going out there and playing free.”
I was shocked after listening to his initial comment, so I made sure to reiterate the question and confirm that was what he meant.
“Whatever moves they made, I still got to go out there and perform,” McLemore said.
Now that’s a true competitor’s answer. Owning up to struggles is a move in the right direction when seeking improvements in various areas in life. In this case, McLemore understands that whether players were added or not, he had an obligation to perform at a higher level than last season, which he simply didn’t.
In McLemore’s return from a 10-game absence he looked confident. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
He also admitted that it wasn’t easy going through a finger injury but that he worked out a lot and made it a priority to be in shape when he returned to the floor. It sure seemed that way. Watching film and observing the game from the bench also helped and allowed him to appreciate the game much more.
“We have to finish the season strong, continue to play for each other and stuff like that,” McLemore said. “Build off how we finish this season going into next season.”
But does he genuinely believe these words? I asked him that, because I felt that his answer was cliché. Many of his teammates have said that too, so I simply asked.
“Yeah, that’s with any sport. You have your ups and downs and stuff like that,” McLemore said. “You just got to continue to believe in yourself and your teammates and the organization, finishing strong, staying together. You do those things and good things happen.”
I guess he does mean it.
Admitting his downfall this season shows his maturation as a person, which is a huge positive, because it gives him hope of making improvements in the near future as a basketball player.
Divac and company will have the final say on whether or not McLemore’s future will indeed remain in Sacramento. Do they believe they can get value in return if they decide to trade McLemore?
“I do believe that we have talent, that we’ve got good assets here,” Divac said. “I’m not pleased with the results we’ve had this year, but it’s something that we have to talk about after the season and make good decisions moving forward.”
Whatever they decide to do with McLemore, the “Pizza Guy” will remain positive and strive to get better.
When asked about playing for the Sacramento Kings next season, McLemore smiled.
“I mean yeah, at the end of the day, I can only control what I can control, and I got to continue to get better each and every day,” McLemore shared with Cowbell Kingdom. “Do whatever is best for my team. Go out there and give it my all and finish strong.”