Happy to be in the starting lineup, Cauley-Stein says 'flawless' defense is key to Kings' success
A few weeks ago, the Kings’ roster featured veterans trying to make a playoff push with help from some young players.
Now the veterans are mentors.
When the Kings shifted gears last month and traded DeMarcus Cousins, the focus turned to young players such as rookies Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield, who came from New Orleans in the Cousins deal.
Since the All-Star break, the older Kings are teaching their younger counterparts, trying to get them acclimated. As players such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Hield and Labissiere adjust to expanded roles, communication and understanding from the veterans are keys.
It’s easy to teach a talented guy how to play within a system. Skal’s done a heck of a job, Willie’s been playing great when given time, and Buddy’s a tremendous scorer. It’s just one of those things where we have to combine everything, and I feel like once we do that, we’ll be fine.
Kosta Koufos, Kings center, on Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield
“You’ve just got to be patient,” guard Ty Lawson said. “The game’s moving fast for the young guys, so we’ve got to be a little more talkative, tell them exactly what we want them to do. They might be out of place sometimes, but we’ve just got to talk a little bit more.”
Labissiere has spent most of his rookie season with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League. But he made his first NBA start Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets at Golden 1 Center.
Hield appeared in only his fourth game with the Kings on Wednesday. Being a rookie is hard enough, but trying to learn a new system after the All-Star break is even tougher.
After being traded, veterans often say their learning curve is lessened because there isn’t much difference in what teams run. It’s more a matter of learning terminology. Hield lacks that institutional knowledge, so the veterans must help. But that’s a tricky situation because the veterans had just become comfortable with first-year coach Dave Joerger’s system.
Like Lawson, guard Darren Collison emphasized the importance of being vocal.
“Constantly talking, being more of a leader,” Collison of how to assist the young players. “I think in the past, before the deadline, obviously players were just starting to get used to each other. We didn’t have to talk as much. Everybody knew where to be.”
As the primary point guards, Collison and Lawson know they must be tolerant as their younger teammates learn.
You’ve just got to be patient. The game’s moving fast for the young guys, so we’ve got to be a little more talkative, tell them exactly what we want them to do. They might be out of place sometimes, but we’ve just got to talk a little bit more.
Ty Lawson, Kings guard
“I think now we have to kind of reiterate some of the plays,” Collison said. “It’s not their fault. You go into a new system, it takes time to learn a new system. So we just have to continue to be there for each other, help each other out.”
The veterans have been encouraged by the younger players’ effort. The Kings took a two-game losing streak into Wednesday, but Labissiere, Cauley-Stein and Hield had promising performance since the trade.
Cauley-Stein scored a career-high 29 points in last Thursday’s win over Denver. Hield had 16 and 15 points in his first two games with Sacramento. Labissiere had season highs in scoring (12 points) and rebounding (13) over the last three games.
“It’s easy to teach a talented guy how to play within a system,” center Kosta Koufos said. “Skal’s done a heck of a job, Willie’s been playing great when given time, and Buddy’s a tremendous scorer. It’s just one of those things where we have to combine everything, and I feel like once we do that, we’ll be fine.”