Cauley-Stein gets rare opportunity, delivers in Kings' win

Cauley-Stein gets rare opportunity, delivers in Kings' win

There was a Willie Cauley-Stein sighting Monday in Detroit. It’s become a rarity this season to see the Sacramento Kings’ 2015 first-round draft pick play substantial minutes in coach Dave Joerger’s rotation. But the bench is getting lean and Cauley-Stein answered the bell.

“He’s putting in his work and had an opportunity,” Joerger told media members following the Kings’ 109-104 win over the Pistons. “He went and got balls out of his area, which is important for a guy that athletic.”

The former 6th overall selection has played in just 37 games this season, sitting out seven contests as a healthy scratch. He’s posting 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11 minutes a night, but with both Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi sidelined, Cauley-Stein is getting a look.

It’s been difficult for the former Kentucky star. He knows he’s on a short a leash. He doesn’t have time to settle into the game, it’s zero-60 in five seconds or the bench is calling.

“I just try to maintain a mentality of just going in, going really hard, making sure I’m talking to the guards on different plays,” Cauley-Stein told reporters in Detroit. “Just trying to stay mentally right on it.”

After playing in multiple variations of the “dribble-drive motion offense,” both in college and in his rookie season in Sacramento under George Karl, the 7-footer has had to relearn the game of basketball under Joerger. It’s a difficult path to minutes, but Cauley-Stein can be seen working overtime almost everyday.

“The amount of work I’ve been putting in, it’s starting to show, it’s starting to pay off,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m starting to get the trust of my teammates and my coaches behind me and that’s everything in this game.”

Following practice, Cauley-Stein can be seen working with big man coach Bob Thornton. When he is done there, he goes to assistant Larry Lewis for more skill work and then there are the 3-on-3 games with Ben McLemore and the rookies.

He can be seen in pregame working on his handles alongside McLemore and the coaching staff and he spent plenty of time over the summer working on his shooting stroke with Peja Stojakovic.

“It’s a great feeling to know when you put it down, you’ve got complete control where it’s going,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s the same thing with your shot. The more and more you work on it, the more and more it just comes second hand. Right now it all feels good for me.”

Cauley-Stein had a breakout 12 points and five rebounds against the Pistons on Monday. He was active and even took All-Star center Andre Drummond off the dribble for a huge two-handed dunk.

A defensive specialist by nature, Cauley-Stein still has a long way to go before he is ready to be a major cog in Joerger’s high-post offense. But at 23 years old and under team control for at least another two seasons, there is still time to salvage the quirky big man.

The Kings need Cauley-Stein to develop into a tireless worker on the glass and a player that does the little things. He still has plenty of upside and tremendous length and athleticism. He’s doing the work and earned another shot at playing minutes on the frontline next to DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos.

More nights like the one in Detroit would go a long way towards earning the trust of Joerger and his staff.

Bogdanovic, Kings look to beat Warriors at Oracle for second time this season


Bogdanovic, Kings look to beat Warriors at Oracle for second time this season

No rest for the weary. The Kings hit game four of their five games in seven nights stretch. They’ll draw a beat up, but dangerous Golden State Warriors team Friday night at Oracle Arena.

Sacramento is coming off a wild overtime win against the playoff bound Miami Heat on Wednesday. De’Aaron Fox hit a floater as time expired to push the game to overtime and fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic drilled a late 3-pointer to put the game away late in the extra session.

Golden State trails the Houston Rockets by two games for the top overall seed in the Western Conference playoff chase. They’ve already clinched another Pacific division title, but they are at risk for missing out on the top seed. Every game counts as they hit the stretch run.


Warriors by 12


Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Zaza Pachulia -- It might not be the matchup people bought tickets to see, but it’s the matchup they’re going to get. With the Warriors banged up, Pachulia has stepped up and filled a valuable role in the middle. He’s strong as an ox and does all the dirty work. Cauley-Stein is getting his legs back under him after missing 10 days with a back strain. He’s improved in year four, but still needs to work on his consistency.  


Kings: 22-47, fourth place in Pacific

Warriors: 52-16, first place in Pacific


Kings: PF Skal Labissiere (hip contusion) questionable, SF/SG Iman Shumpert (knee rehab/plantar fasciitis) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Warriors: PF Jordan Bell (ankle) probable, PG Quinn Cook (hand contusion) probable, PF David West (arm cyst) probable, SF Kevin Durant (ribs soreness) out, PG Steph Curry (ankle) out, SG Klay Thompson (thumb) out, SG Patrick McGaw (wrist) out.


Wounded Warriors -- Golden State will play without three of their four All-Stars. The Kings took advantage of the Warriors early in the season when they were the similar situation of missing All-Stars. Sacramento needs to stay the course and continue to play with effort as they finish the schedule, regardless of who suits up for their opponent.

Big Moments -- If there is one thing that stands out in the 2017-18 season for Sacramento, it’s the clutch plays by the young players. Fox has four shots in his rookie season that either won or tied a game in the final seconds. Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield have come through with big shots as well.  

Come Out Firing -- The best way to beat the Warriors is to make them work for their shots. The best way to make them work for their shots is to score baskets and set up the defense. If the Kings can put up an efficient offensive night, they have a shot of dethroning the shorthanded champs.


The Kings and Warriors are all knotted at one game apiece in the season series. Golden State holds a 201-187 lead in the all-time series and a 73-66 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

After another clutch shot, De'Aaron Fox pulls back curtain on mindset in big moments


After another clutch shot, De'Aaron Fox pulls back curtain on mindset in big moments

SACRAMENTO -- You can’t teach clutch. Either you got it or you don’t. De’Aaron Fox has it.

In his rookie season in the NBA, the 20-year-old out of Kentucky has found himself in plenty of big moments already.

Who can forget his 18-foot game-winning jumper over the outstretched arms of the Sixers Robert Covington back in November that gave the Kings a 109-108 win.

On the road in Miami on January 25, he went over the top of the Heat defense with a putback dunk to snap the Kings’ 15-game losing streak at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Two weeks ago against the Brooklyn Nets, Fox went baseline and hit a high arching floater over the top of a defender as time expired to push the game into overtime.

Wednesday at Golden 1 Center, the Kings blew a 16-point lead to the Heat, but again, it was Fox that saved the day.

With just three seconds remaining, Fox took the inbounds pass from fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic. He instantly got into the body of veteran Goran Dragic, riding the All-Star guard right down the middle of the lane.

With four defenders converging on the play, Fox used his left hand to maneuver through a sea of arms and hit a 9-foot floater. The replay shows the ball leaving the 6-foot-3 guard’s hand just before the clock hits zero. The ball cut through the net and Golden 1 Center exploded.

“I feel like guys that want those moments, want to play in those close games, those guys are the ones who thrive,” Fox told media members following the Kings’ 123-119 overtime win. “You don’t usually see the guys that want the shot, miss the shot a lot. It’s the basketball gods just rewarding us for wanting to do it.”

Fox’s jumper extended the game by five minutes and the young Kings kept charging forward. The speedy guard came through with two big stops on Dragic down the stretch, showing that he is more than just an offensive weapon.

“I feel like I can be one of the best two-way players in this league in some time,” Fox said. “That guy, he’s an All-Star. He’s good. You just try to get him out of rhythm, try to make it tough. He had a great game, but down the stretch, I just tried to make it tough on him.”

Dragic finished the night with a game-high 33 points, but he shot just 1-of-3 from the field in the extra frame as Fox put the clamps on him.

Fox wasn’t the only player to come up big for Sacramento. Buddy Hield chipped in 12 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and he added four points in the overtime session. Zach Randolph chipped in 22 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes and Bogdanovic hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining in the extra session to put the game away.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t scared,” Fox said. “Once we sent it to overtime, it’s pretty much crunch time the whole five minutes and we have a whole bunch of guys that can make plays and make shots.”

Injuries to Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere have forced Randolph back into action full-time for Sacramento. Despite a 22-47 record, the 36-year-old big sees major improvement in the team’s young core.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in my young guys,” Randolph said. “They play hard and they put the time in and they work hard. When we get on the court, it applies on the court and that’s what they’re doing. I’m proud of them.”

Fox isn’t the only young player to come up clutch for the Kings this season. Skal Labissiere drilled a 3-pointer against the New York Knicks on March 4 to give Sacramento a win and both Bogdanovic and Hield have come through plenty of times with the big shots.

The Kings return to the floor Friday in Oakland where they face the Golden State Warriors on the first night of a back-to-back. While out of the hunt in the Western Conference playoff race, they continue to play hard, posting a 4-4 over their last eight games.