Willie Cauley-Stein has not had a great couple of games. On December 16th Willie was outplayed by DeAndre Jordan, and outrebounded 23 to 8. On December 17th he played just a handful of minutes as Sacramento Kings coach Dave Joerger opted to rest his starters after they came out flat. And on Wednesday Willie was outplayed badly by Steven Adams, who outrebounded Willie 23 to 7. After the game Willie was asked about giving up 23 rebounds to to both DeAndre Jordan and Steven Adams, and Willie responded in typical Willie fashion.
"They get paid 100 mil to do that." - @THEwillieCS15 on Adams & Jordan getting 20+ rebounds— Matt George (@MattGeorgeKHTK) December 20, 2018
Lest you think this quote is taken out of context, the full video can be seen here. A reporter in the scrum followed that quote by asking Willlie if seeing those players being paid at that level inspires Willie to work harder at rebounds and defense, Willie stated “I already be doing that.”
Cauley-Stein is averaging 8.2 rebounds per game and has a defensive rating of 108.1. Opponents shoot 4.7% better against Willie this season than their season averages.
In case I’m not being clear enough: Willie Cauley-Stein is not already defending and rebounding.
For a guy who famously started the year by talking about how he wants to get paid, Willie remains painfully lacking in self awareness. He talks about how those players get paid so much to rebound and play defense, and he talks about wanting to get paid, but the connection between the two just doesn’t seem to click. It makes you want to grab Willie by the shoulders and shout “IF YOU REBOUND AND PLAY DEFENSE YOU WILL ALSO GET PAID.”
I honestly wasn’t that upset with Willie’s performance itself. I fully expect Willie to get destroyed by Steven Adams. I know Steven Adams is a better player than Willie Cauley-Stein. I know Willie is a bad rebounder and a lackadaisical defender. Where I get frustrated is that Willie himself doesn’t seem to know these things. He thinks he’s doing well. He thinks he’s working hard at defense and rebounding, and he simply isn’t.
And it isn’t even a question of ability. We know Willie can be a great defender. We saw it at Kentucky. It’s what made Willie a top 10 draft pick. And yet he STILL doesn’t equate effort on defense with advancement in his career. It’s painful.
Willie began the season with such promise. Despite his comments about wanting to get paid, Willie came out of the gates like a man inspired. He played smart, efficient basketball and had us believing that perhaps Willie could really be a player worth paying and keeping as a key cog for this team. But he’s fallen back to Earth, back to the same old Willlie. If you remove his play in October and just look at November and December, Willie is averaging 12.4 points and 7.9 rebounds. In 2017-18 Willie averaged 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds.
There’s an old fable of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion wants to cross the river but can’t swim so he asks a frog for a ride. The frog is worried and says “how do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says “if I do that we’d both drown”, so the frog agrees. Halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog and with his dying breath the frog asks “Why?” and the scorpion responds “It’s my nature”.
The Kings will be faced with the decision on whether or not to pay Willie Cauley-Stein this summer. When making that decision they must know that they can’t trust Willie to play defense or rebound. If they expect Willie to give them anything more than 12 and 8 and bad defense, they’ll be stung.
It’s Willie’s nature.