If Willie Cauley-Stein blows an assignment this week, no one will be too upset.
This is the time to make mistakes as the Kings began a summer-league minicamp Tuesday at their practice facility.
Cauley-Stein, the sixth pick in last month’s draft, isn’t being asked to be the savior, and coach George Karl expects him to have his share of missteps.
“We talked yesterday before a little workout, and basically he just told me, ‘We’re not worried about you making mistakes,’” Cauley-Stein said after his first five-on-five practice with the Kings. “‘We just want you to play really aggressive.’ When I catch the ball, mid-post or in the post, just be really aggressive and try to attack the rim, and then on defense do what I do.”
My whole focus is being aggressive. Everything else will take care of itself.
Most are confident Cauley-Stein will become an effective NBA defender; the main question about the rookie regards his offense and led some to predict he would be drafted later in the first round.
The Kings and Cauley-Stein believe he won’t be a liability on offense as he develops. The 7-foot-1, 242-pound center insists he will expand his repertoire beyond dunks and putbacks. He averaged 8.9 points last season as a junior at Kentucky.
“I’ve had talks with the coaches; it’s not going to happen right away,” Cauley-Stein said. “But for me to see the floor (I have to) do what got me here, being a defensive stopper, flying around, bringing a lot of energy. Then as the year progresses, or the next couple of years progress, and the more work I get with the coaches, that’s when the offense is really going to develop.”
The coaches will be patient if Cauley-Stein misses a lot of shots.
“My whole focus is being aggressive,” Cauley-Stein said. “Everything else will take care of itself.”
Tuesday’s practice also was the first for Eric Moreland since season-ending shoulder surgery in January.
Last year, Moreland was one of the surprises of summer league for the Kings. His defense and hustle earned him an invite to training camp and a spot on the regular-season roster.
The big focus for me is learning everything. You’ve got to become a team.
“It feels really good,” Moreland said. “I’ve been hurt for a long time now. Just to be able to move my shoulder any type of way, that feels like a super power. It feels great to be healthy again.”
The Kings practice Wednesday and Thursday before leaving for Las Vegas. Their first summer-league game is Friday against Toronto.
Karl has said he would stay in the background during the minicamp, but he spoke to the players before the assistant coaches took over practice.
“He just told us to work hard, be coachable,” said guard Corey Hawkins, who starred at UC Davis. “... They’re going to throw a lot at us.”
Cauley-Stein must become familiar with new teammates, most of whom won’t be invited to training camp, while absorbing new terminology.
“The big focus for me is learning everything,” Cauley-Stein said. “You’ve got to become a team.”