According to a theory, talented offensive players don’t play defense because they save their energy for scoring.
For second-year Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, the opposite could apply: He has saved his energy on offense to play defense.
That situation is slowly changing this summer. New coach Dave Joerger wants Cauley-Stein to play a bigger role on offense, beginning with the team’s summer league stint.
Cauley-Stein looks forward to being more involved on offense. He also realizes he must get into the best physical condition of his NBA career – what he called “game shape” – to gain the stamina to stay on the court.
He’s trying hard, very conscientious. I can do a better job defining for him exactly what it is we’re looking for. But at the same time it’s a good opportunity for me just to coach guys and understand their game a little bit.
Kings coach Dave Joerger, on Willie Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein admitted he’s not where he needs to be physically to make an impact on offense and defense.
“This is the first time I’ve played 5-on-5, up and down, the whole summer,” he said. “Getting back into that type of shape and being able to do the kind of things I do takes a lot of energy and effort. So to do both, you’ve got to be in the best shape of your life, and that’s what this is getting me ready for.”
Through two summer league games, Cauley-Stein hasn’t appeared ready for his duties at both ends of the court. He’s shooting 23.8 percent (5 of 21) and averaging 9.0 points. He also has 11 rebounds.
“He’s trying hard, very conscientious,” Joerger said. “I can do a better job defining for him exactly what it is we’re looking for. But at the same time, it’s a good opportunity for me just to coach guys and understand their game a little bit.”
Cauley-Stein sees this summer as part of his offseason education. Besides the summer league, he’ll join the USA Select team that will practice against the U.S. Olympic squad. He’d rather make mistakes now and feel more comfortable during the regular season.
More activity on offense means Cauley-Stein must adjust his playing style and mindset.
This is the first time I’ve played 5-on-5, up and down, the whole summer. Getting back into that type of shape and being able to do the kind of things I do takes a lot of energy and effort. So to do both, you’ve got to be in the best shape of your life, and that’s what this is getting me ready for.
Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein
“Playing a certain way for your whole career and then changing it is going to have its ups and downs because you’re trying to figure out new footwork, just trying to figure out different spacing on the floor,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s all just learning. That’s what I’m here for. I think each game has gotten progressively better, so that’s the ultimate goal.”
Cauley-Stein isn’t discouraged by his slow start this summer. He views his performance as part of his growth as a player and something that was inevitable.
“I wasn’t expecting I was going to drop 25 (points) and 15 (rebounds),” Cauley-Stein said. “I was coming in to get my wind for USA (Select team) and get in the best shape that I can for that and learn how to become more of an offensive threat along the way.”
Cauley-Stein is learning it takes a lot of energy to pull that off.
New summer league coach – Kings assistant coach Bryan Gates will direct the team for the rest of the summer league. Joerger coached the first two games to help establish roles for the staff and direction for practices entering the regular season. Head coaches routinely do not coach summer league teams.