Willie Cauley-Stein has never spoken without candor. Good or bad, the Sacramento Kings center speaks his mind and doesn’t seem to care how people take it. From comparing himself to Kristaps Porzingis to openly admitting he stopped going hard for rebounds after suffering a finger injury, Willie has been the counter-argument to every fan who says they wish athletes were honest and didn’t just speak in clichés. On Monday, Willie spoke with NBC Sports’ James Ham and added another quote to his history:
“I’m ready to get paid,” Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports California. “This is what we’ve got to do, that’s what type of focus I’m on.
“I’m ready for it. I’ve seen everybody else -- all my peers. All right, I’m ready for that. What do I got to do to do that? That’s what they’re doing? All right, I’m going to go ahead and do this now. I was doing it this way, obviously it wasn’t working, so now let’s do it this way.”
The quote turned some heads, and had some Kings fans shaking their heads in disgust. After practice on Wednesday, Willie took the time to try to clarify his comments.
Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein discusses training camp conditioning, the evolution of his game, motivation stepping into his 4th NBA season in Sac & clarifies comment about his comment about being ready to get paid.@THEwillieCS15— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) September 26, 2018
FULL VIDEO: https://t.co/BwX8cRFS4s pic.twitter.com/960LSQ7sKp
For those unable to watch the video, here’s some of what Willie said.
“I think that got put out of context a little bit. It made it look like I was just worried about this money, but I meant that in the sense of ‘what do I need to do to get that?’”
The problem is that Willie still doesn’t get it. “What do I need to do to get that?” is till a question framed around the result of money. Now, I work a day job instead of pursuing sports writing full time because a) I’m not that great a sportswriter and b) because my day job pays better than sportswriting. So far be it from me to judge someone for wanting to maximize their earning potential.
The problem is that Willie still doesn’t seem to understand that the best way to achieve his goals is to do the things that help the Kings reach their goals. We’ve spent years begging Willie to focus on defense and rebounding. Those are traits that will help the Kings win, they are traits that inspired the Kings to use the 6th overall pick in the 2015 draft on him, and they’re traits that have made big men millions upon millions of dollars in the NBA.
And maybe Willie just isn’t articulating himself to properly explain his motivation but to me his comments, even after clarification, still sound like Willie is about to have himself one hell of a contract year. But what do those comments suggest about how Willie will perform once he gets paid? That’s the concern that comes from these comments. That’s the concern that would, or at least should, be in the minds of the Kings front office and front offices around the NBA.
It’s not enough to do all the things people have been begging you to do. It’s that Willie should have been working towards this next contract for the past three years and by his own admission, he hasn’t.