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George Karl Shows Willie Cauley-Stein Tough Love

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

George Karl, in an effort to one-up his good pal Rajon Rondo, made some weird, half-joking-but-not comments to the media after yesterdays practice in regards to Willie Cauley-Stein's minor ankle injury.

Here is the short summary.

Cauley-Stein tweaked his ankle in practice two days ago. He didn’t practice yesterday, and George Karl isn’t pleased.

George Karl, via James Ham, CSN Bay Area

"I recommend he start practicing," Karl said with a chuckle. "I think he’s going to be fine. He doesn’t look like he’s hurt."

"Injuries are not my forte," Karl added. "I don’t handle them well. I’m usually too tough on players that are sitting on the sidelines and don’t look they are hurt. He’s a rookie. He’s got to get on the court. The more he’s on the court, the more he’ll play, the more opportunity he’ll get. Injuries doesn’t help you."

There is some difference of opinion in how Karl said what he said. I’ve seen some suggest that he was joking, and while he was sort of chuckling through the comment, it sounded serious to me. It isn’t quite as big of a shot to Cauley-Stein as the without-context quotes look, but I do think Karl meant what he said. News10’s Sean Cunningham posted the full video here, so you can make your own judgment, but James Ham called it a "shot across the bow by an experienced coach to a young player" and I certainly took it the same way.

On one hand, there is a ‘well, that’s George Karl’ element to these comments. That is his coaching style, it always has been, and it always will be. So while I agree to a certain extent that this is almost not worth talking about in a ‘you get what you pay for’ sense, I also think that only applies if you’re his employer. I understand that this is his coaching style, and this is how he treats his players, but I also think it’s OK to not like it, or get irritated by it. I didn’t hire him; I can wish he didn’t use the media like this, right?

I’ve come to the realization that George Karl’s off-the-court coaching style isn’t for me. I can’t argue with his 1,000+ career wins, or obvious history of success, but when members of the national media write about how combustible the situation in Sacramento is, this is a big part of what they are talking about. Karl stirs the pot. He’s sending a message here, and a part of me is even more irritated that he’s doing it to a basically defenseless rookie. He’s known this kid for five months and he’s already questioning his toughness right after he was just blasted for his conditioning. Welcome to the NBA, Willie.

This would be a huge story if he were talking about DeMarcus Cousins. I hope Karl has the awareness to understand that he can’t do this to Cousins, but then the ‘bully’ element of taking shots at the rookie is irritating on a different level.

Am I too sensitive to stuff like this? Maybe. If you wanted to call me out on that I’d consider it fair, but this is only a concern of mine because of how duct taped together this locker room is already. If this was a solid locker room, you could probably handle little shots like this, but we already saw how the Rajon Rondo joke comments blew up last week. Everyone is waiting for the bomb to go off, and I'd appreciate a little discretion from the head coach. That's all.