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Confidence and comfortability leads to turnaround for Ben McLemore

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After a rough start to the season, Ben McLemore has discovered his role with the Rockets.

Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Ben McLemore’s latest stretch of games is a testament of how far the sharpshooting guard from Kansas has come since his days with the Sacramento Kings.

During Houston’s six-point victory over the Phoenix Suns, McLemore scored 27 of the Rockets’ 38 bench points, while shooting 10-for-15 (66%) from the field, 5-for-9 (55%) from behind the arc. Two nights prior, he scored a game-high 28 points in a victory over the Raptors on a career-best 8-for-17 (47%) from deep. This marked the first time in his career that McLemore scored 25 or more points in consecutive games.

After a rough start to the season, McLemore has been nothing but sensational as of the late for the Rockets. Filling in for the injured Gerald Green and Eric Gordon, he has established himself as a solid 3-and-D player, all the while averaging 22.5 points on a scorching 48.6% shooting from deep over the past four games.

“I’ve just been going out there playing a game I love with confidence. Over the past few games, my teammates and coaches have done a great job instilling a great sense of confidence in me to continue to shoot, play hard, and staying aggressive.” - McLemore

The success McLemore has endured through the first 22 games seemed like an unrealistic reality a little over a year ago. Buried at the end of the Kings’ bench, McLemore averaged a career-low 3.9 points in 8.3 minutes of play. After appearing in 19 games, Sacramento waived the 6’5” shooting guard in February to help clear a roster spot in time for the NBA trade deadline.

Unable to land another job to finish the 2018-19 season, McLemore says Houston’s confidence and belief in him played a huge role in his decision to sign with the Rockets this summer.

Although it was the right decision, his transition to Houston was all but smooth sailing with no clear indication of what his role was within the team. Following a few rough pitches to start the year, he has been able to successfully right the ship due to additional time spent with the coaching staff and veterans players.

“Having that big support system here has helped me build my game to a higher level to reach my full potential. Its been through hard work, watching film, and sitting down with the coaching staff along with James [Harden], Russ [Russell Westbrook], and P.J. [Tucker], learning the game and going out there on the floor to execute it.”

McLemore’s early-season turnaround has caused many to debate whether the Kings’ former lottery pick (7th, 2013), should be inserted into the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Although he has the numbers to back up his case, Mike D’Antoni believes McLemore’s production will be the same regardless if he starts or comes off the bench.

“Ben is playing great for us, and we’ve always thought he would play well. He is extremely coachable, and it was a matter of him getting comfortable finding his role with the Rockets. It does not matter if he starts or not because I believe his production will be the same. I think it is just a coincidence and it is a small sample size. You can’t go off of five games and make a quick decision.” - D’Antoni

Focused more on helping the Rockets climb the standings, McLemore holds no ill feelings towards the organization that drafted him heading into Monday’s matchup with the Kings. Yet, facing a team he suited up for early in 2019, McLemore is looking forward to building off his recent success.

“We can’t take any team lightly. We have to continue doing what makes us successful and executing on both ends of the floor in order to get a win.”

The Rockets will look to make it three straight wins against the Kings, Monday night, inside the Toyota Center in Houston. Tip-off is slated for 7 P.M. CT.