LAS VEGAS Willie Cauley-Stein will never be accused of loafing on the basketball court.
His attempts to block shots can be captivating but also dangerous when he lands and crashes to the floor.
But coaches have never tried to reel in Cauley-Stein’s style of play for safety’s sake.
“No,” Cauley-Stein said. “I ain’t never heard that in my life.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Kings have no plans to curb Cauley-Stein’s all-out style, either. Coaches are encouraging their rookie to exert maximum effort, even if it means playing in short bursts.
“I think Willie always plays hard, and I think he’s still adjusting to the NBA game and style of play,” said Kings assistant coach John Welch. “The one thing I love about Willie is every night you know what you’re going to get. His effort is great.”
Summer league games consist of four 10-minute quarters, and the Kings rookie is averaging 20 minutes per game. It has not been uncommon for Cauley-Stein to ask to be taken out less than five minutes into the contest.
The one thing I love about Willie is every night you know what you’re going to get. His effort is great.
Kings assistant coach John Welch
While at Kentucky in 2013 Cauley-Stein revealed that he suffers from the sickle cell trait, which impedes the flow of blood and oxygen. That leads to shortness of breath and chest pain.
The Kings are intrigued by the potential for their 7-foot-1 first-round pick to put pressure on defenses by sprinting down the court.
There are no conditioning concerns, Welch said. Nor are there worries about whether Cauley-Stein must learn to pace himself to play extended minutes in the NBA.
“We love the fact of how hard he plays and the fact that he’ll say, ‘Take me out,’ (he’ll) get some rest, and we’ll put him back in,” Welch said. “I think that’s one of his strengths. Playing hard, you hear coaches say, is a talent. For him to be successful, he’s going to have to play very hard.”
The Kings close out summer league play on Friday against the Miami Heat. Cauley-Stein, who signed his rookie contract Thursday, is averaging 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in four games. The Kings also appreciate Cauley-Stein’s constant movement on defense. He runs down the court to prevent easy scores on fast breaks and flies around the paint to try to block shots.
“Just playing really active,” Cauley-Stein said of his halfcourt defense. “Contesting every shot, making guards when they come in and try to shoot layups (to) second-guess themselves.”
The Kings drafted Cauley-Stein sixth overall last month to do that. He hopes his activity gives his teammates freedom to take more chances on defense.
“That’s what I’m there for,” Cauley-Stein said. “So we can gamble and try to make offense out of our defense.”
Contract nullified – Luc Mbah a Moute joked that he hoped his second stint with the Kings would last more than a “couple weeks.” It didn’t.
The Kings announced Thursday that the one-year contract Mbah a Moute signed Tuesday had been voided because he failed a team physical.
The 6-foot-8 forward had been signed to add much-needed perimeter defense.
Mbah a Moute was acquired in a trade before the 2013-14 season but dealt to Minnesota for Derrick Williams after playing in nine games. Mbah a Moute played for Philadelphia last season and averaged a career-high 9.9 points.
Luc Mbah a Moute’s first stint with the Kings lasted nine games.
Familiar face – The Kings’ front office continues to evolve. Back in an unofficial advisory role to principal owner Vivek Ranadive is former Kings assistant general manager Jason Levien, who wore a credential that said “guest of Ranadive” on Monday.
Levien resigned from his Kings post in 2010 after about 18 months amid speculation of friction with former Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie.
After leaving the Kings, Levien was a part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and then the CEO of the Memphis Grizzlies.
He resigned last year amid reports of a strained relationship with owner Robert Pera.