Former Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein has no hard feelings and no regrets. He said he will always treasure the time he spent in Sacramento but now he’s ready to embrace an exciting new opportunity with the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s business,” Cauley-Stein told The Sacramento Bee. “They went a different direction and so did I. It’s all love either way. I spent four years of my life there. At this point, it’s home.”
Cauley-Stein spoke to The Bee on Monday evening outside Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas about an hour before he was scheduled to make his first media appearance as a member of the Warriors. He spoke fondly of Sacramento, complimented the player the Kings brought in to replace him and expressed optimism about his future with the Warriors, who have won five consecutive Western Conference titles and three NBA championships in the last five years.
“Just going into that culture after what they’ve done the last five or six years, what they’ve built over there, getting a chance to experience that culture is just out of this world,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m just blessed with the opportunity.”
The Kings selected Cauley-Stein with the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He averaged 10.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.8 blocked shots in four seasons before his tenure with the Kings came to an unceremonious end.
Roger Montgomery, Cauley-Stein’s agent with Roc Nation Sports, told The Bee last month his client wanted a fresh start with a new team, saying he wanted the Kings to make him an unrestricted free agent. The Kings extended a $6.3 million qualifying offer to make Cauley-Stein a restricted free agent, which would have given them the right to match any offer, but they later rescinded the offer to free up salary cap space for other moves.
Cauley-Stein jumped at the chance to join the Warriors, who reportedly offered him slightly more than the veteran minimum, which amounts to about $1.74 million for a player with four years of service. The decision cost him millions of dollars, but Cauley-Stein said he values the opportunity to join the likes of Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green in Golden State.
“They’re making me feel real welcome and the fan base is crazy anyway, so it’s a lot of excitement,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s new. Anytime something is new, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting. That’s how I feel right now. It’s new. It’s exciting.
“They obviously want to get out and run, and being a big that specializes in getting out and running, that’s something I’m really excited about. Being out there with Steph and D-Lo, playing defense next to Draymond, that’s going to be crazy learning playoff basketball next to some champions.”
The Kings signed Dewayne Dedmon to replace Cauley-Stein, a move Cauley-Stein fully endorses given Dedmon’s ability to shoot 3-pointers and block shots in Sacramento’s up-tempo system.
“I think it fits better for them in that role for what they want,” he said. “Shooting 3s, rim protecting, all that. Obviously they felt I didn’t do a good job at it. I think (Dedmon) is one of the good ones in the league who does that, so for them I think that’s a big-time move.”
Cauley-Stein always knew it would be difficult to leave Sacramento – even after four losing seasons – but he believes he benefited from the experience.
“I’m just glad I didn’t have to leave California,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve got friends in Sacramento that I’ll still be able to see, so everything happens for a reason and I’m blessed that I got to spend the time I did there. I’ve learned a lot in the last four years about how to be a pro. Even when s--- ain’t going right, you’ve still got to be a pro and hold yourself in high character and Sacramento taught me that.”