Rookies Collide

KCP could draw start for injured Billups vs. Kings, McLemore

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could see quality minutes tonight against the Kings.
Rocky Widner (NBAE/Getty)
SACRAMENTO – Ben McLemore and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came out of high school in the same graduating class and were drafted on consecutive picks five months ago, so they’ll forever be linked. Their parallel paths probably will find another common link tonight at Sleep Train Arena, where the two NBA rookies appear headed for a matchup as starting shooting guards.

McLemore moved in Sacramento’s starting lineup in its most recent game, Wednesday’s rout of Brooklyn. Caldwell-Pope seems the favorite to make his first NBA start tonight for the Pistons, who will be without Chauncey Billups for at least one game as he recovers from a case of tendinitis in his left knee.

Maurice Cheeks said at Friday’s shootaround that he hadn’t yet decided between Caldwell-Pope and Stuckey for the starting job, but he said several times in discussing the choice that he liked how Stuckey has performed coming off the bench.

“KCP’s been good, but I like the way Stuckey plays coming off the bench,” Cheeks said. “I like his energy, I like his defense, I like his offense. … I’m comfortable with either guy.”

Even coming off the bench, Stuckey could play the majority of minutes at the position tonight. Billups played only 20 minutes combined in the first two games of the current four-game Western Conference road swing while Stuckey played 62. That probably would mean Caldwell-Pope’s minutes would like up accordingly with McLemore’s. In his first career start, McLemore played only 15 minutes against Brooklyn. Veteran Marcus Thornton, who started Sacramento’s first six games, played 34 off the bench.

In five games played, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 7.2 points in 16 minutes. McLemore has played in all seven Kings games, averaging 7.9 points in 19 minutes.

“I don’t think I’ll be nervous,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable right now. I just feel good.”

Billups has taken both rookie guards, Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva, under his wing, shepherding them through private videotape review.

“He knows the game really well,” Caldwell-Pope said. “The way he watches film, breaking it down for us, me and Peyton are surprised. There were things we weren’t seeing. He’s really a student of the game.”