Willie Cauley-Stein had a pretty bad performance in this year’s NBA Summer League and he is the first to admit it. He says that it has already helped him, however, to understand what changes he needs to make to his game.
Cauley-Stein entered the Summer League hoping to show his new head coach Dave Joerger what he could do with the ball in his hands more. This came after being somewhat limited in terms of minutes and freedom under George Karl last season. The attempt to be a playmaker on the Summer League squad didn’t turn out so well as Cauley-Stein averaged 7.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, looked out of sorts on offense and didn’t exactly bring the defensive tenacity most expect out of him.
Right after the last game of the season against the Houston Rockets Cauley-Stein worked with Kings Director of Player Personnel and Development, Peja Stojakovic on his shooting, a lot of shooting as he put it. He had success in these workouts so when he got to Summer League he wanted to perform at the same type of level.
"I just put a lot of pressure on myself doing that and it showed,” Cauley-Stein said during Media Day on Monday.
The 7’0’’ center out of Kentucky was still adjusting to his new, expanded role under Joerger as compared to his role last season.
"Definitely adjusting to a new role. Creating new habits like being told 'no don't do that' and then going to a situation where they're like, 'yes, do that, like we want you to venture out and really explore this new position,” Cauley-Stein said. “You go through a whole year of like being put in a corner, stay there. It's different to rewire your brain into thinking something else."
Joerger doesn’t seem all too concerned based on the Summer League performance.
“He's still a young player. He's in his second year. I think maybe last year might have been a tough year for him, understandably, what his role is and I know he played a bit more at the end. So same thing with Ben [McLemore], just put your arm around him, understand that it's part of the process, just getting better,” Joerger said. “Just stay with it and over the long haul I think they're going to be just fine."
In terms of what Cauley-Stein has learned from the Summer League experience, he said he is focusing on slowing down and just using a quick step instead of trying to play fast all the time. He’s also trying to approach the game “mentally instead of just using all the athleticism.”
Cauley-Stein is a key piece to the future for the Kings franchise so the quicker he takes his game to the next level the better.