Kings Blog

Leaving Las Vegas, work continues for Kings’ Eric Moreland, Willie Cauley-Stein

Kings rookie Willie Cauley-Stein comes off the court after he took a hard fall in the first half against the Denver Nuggets on July 12 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
Kings rookie Willie Cauley-Stein comes off the court after he took a hard fall in the first half against the Denver Nuggets on July 12 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Eric Moreland was a regular at the Kings’ practice facility in the weeks before the NBA Summer League. The second-year forward worked out as much as he could after his rookie season was cut short by shoulder surgery.

So it’s no surprise that Moreland scoffed at the idea of taking a break after the Kings finished their summer schedule of exhibition games with a 73-68 overtime win Friday over the Miami Heat at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“C’mon man,” Moreland said. “You know I don’t take time off.”

That’s the attitude of Moreland and rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein after more than a week of learning their roles in coach George Karl’s system.

Both are big men who will be asked to run the floor to create early scoring chances, and to rebound and defend tenaciously. They can’t expect to have plays run for them on offense, so most of their points will come off hustle.

Kings assistant coach Vance Walberg said the five summer-league games gave Cauley-Stein and Moreland a nice head start on training camp.

“It means a lot, especially for them to see what Coach expects from them, the intensity they have to bring,” Walberg said. “A lot of times, a lot of players don’t understand when you get to the NBA you can’t cheat the game; you can’t give up easy possessions, take off possessions.”

Moreland had seven points, 10 rebounds, two steals and a block in 19 minutes against Miami. Cauley-Stein had 12 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots in 32 minutes, his most in five summer-league games.

Cauley-Stein averaged 20 minutes in his first four games.

“I wanted to play Willie the whole game to get him going and see what he’s got to fight through and so forth,” Walberg said. “You can see the progression with him.”

The Kings’ coaching staff wants Cauley-Stein to improve his endurance, which the rookie plans to work on until training camp begins in September.

Like Moreland, Cauley-Stein has no plans for an extended break.

“I just plan on punishing my body the next month just so I know I’m right – endurance-wise and strength-wise – and I’m ready for training camp,” Cauley-Stein said.

The Kings were encouraged by Cauley-Stein’s defensive efforts throughout summer league. Defense figures to be his best chance of earning playing time.

“Defensively, he can change the game,” Walberg said. “A lot of people don’t think he’s at a great level offensively. I think in time he’s going to do some things that are going to surprise people.”

Expectations of Moreland are similar to those of Cauley-Stein.

“Eric’s got to be that guy who gives us tremendous energy,” Walberg said. “Coach, he wants a guy in that spot that’s going to be a tremendous defender, rebound every miss and protect that rim where there’s no easy buckets, and anything we can get from him offensively is a bonus.”

Moreland was happy to be on the court after his January shoulder surgery. He said playing in the new system was a positive experience.

“It was solid,” Moreland said. “I just wanted to do everything the coaches wanted me to do: rim run (run downcourt for layups), protect the rim and space the floor. Five games of that, and I’m sure it’ll carry over into training camp. I’m not overwhelmed; I’m pretty satisfied with how everything went.”

The NBA usually shuts down during the dog days of summer, but Moreland said he’s “going to go to L.A. and work out,” Moreland said. “There’s a lot of good pickup (basketball) out there. There’s a lot of good run (competition). ... I’ll just go out there and get ready for training camp.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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