Kings

1-on-1 with Cauley-Stein: Finally having a good time in Sacramento

1-on-1 with Cauley-Stein: Finally having a good time in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- Anointing Willie Cauley-Stein as the savior of the Sacramento Kings is a mistake. One player cannot replace the incredible impact on the floor of the departed DeMarcus Cousins. Placing that type of pressure on a young player can do more damage than good.

The second-year big man came out hot in the team’s first game without Cousins, scoring a career-high 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He backed that up by struggling against the Charlotte Hornets, posting just two points and two rebounds as Steve Clifford had his club clog the middle and take away the pick-and-roll.

Cauley-Stein is neither the superstar that sunk the Denver Nuggets, nor the player that struggled against the Hornets. He is somewhere in between and the Kentucky product has plenty of time to carve out his own path.

It will take a team effort to replace Cousins and even then, Sacramento will have to add more pieces in the offseason. For now, Cauley-Stein will get an opportunity to earn his paycheck. There are plenty of minutes of the 23-year-old 7-footer who sat down with CSN California this week to discuss his increased role with the Kings.

JH: What has this experience been for you, not only getting 35 minutes, but getting 22 shots attempts, How big is this opportunity for you?

WCS: It’s brand new, but it’s what you want, you know. It’s a situation you want to come to. Now it’s just all about believing - believing it’s consistent. Staying in an assassin's mind frame of just, come in, do your dirt and get out and hopefully you can compete enough to get the win. I can’t stress enough about how I’ve just got to be locked in, because I want that, I want this, I want this opportunity, I want to capitalize on it. (I want to) start getting some clout in the league.

JH: You’ve been known as a defensive-minded player your entire college career. How do you change people's mind and make them see that you can be something different?

WCS: You know, you never will, you never will. People want to see you how they want you. And I went a few years now trying to change people’s perception of what they think you should be. It’s what you want to be. I no longer care about what my critics say. How are they going to tell me what my game is and what I work on and what I don’t work on? You’ve just got to believe in your work, believe in your path. At this point, I’m really in-tune to what I’m trying to do.

JH: Does it help you that you’re surrounded by young players, as well as veterans? With these young players, you’re on the same path and the veterans are there to support you.

WCS: It’s great because, you know, being a young guy and getting to play with guys that you’re in a platoon with and you grind with everyday - it’s special, because you see each others work get put on the big stage. It’s cool to see the success start to happen, because it’s bad when you’re grinding, you’re grinding, you’re grinding and nothing’s happening and you’re just grinding. And then you finally get that break and then it’s like those three months you were going through while you were grinding, it’s like they don’t even exist in your head anymore and it’s wild once you get just a lick of success.

JH: I’ve seen you in the past not aggressively attacking the glass. And now we see you hammering these putbacks. Everything at the rim is aggressive and forceful. When did the light switch get hit for you? Now you’re just attacking.

WCS: That’s just what they ask me to do. Before, I had a backburner role. So playing 15 minutes, you’ve got to really good to get double-digit boards, especially when your scouter is saying - “don’t let him get boards, the only thing in this game he is going to do is get boards.” That’s just the way it was set up for us to do and now the scouting report has just gotten so much bigger, it’s like, you can’t take away all my strengths and that’s where it becomes big.

JH: Again, you came into the league as a defensive player, but you’ve had some struggles there as well. Do you think that’s going to come to you now that the aggression is there, you’re in the mix, you’re getting longer stretches to read people and know their tendencies?

WCS: For sure, definitely by just being aggressive, it’s going to come. At this point, a lot of our success is going to depend on how I’m playing. So if I stay at least consistent on defense like that, then there’s no problems if you’re not giving up anything. I’m blessed, I can do that.

JH: Are you having a good time?

WCS: (smiling) Finally, yeah, yeah I am.

JH: Does that have to do with the opportunity or does it have to do with the change in culture and the change in atmosphere around here?

WCS: It’s the change in everything and getting to be a part of it - a big part of it. It’s cool just to feel that love and that support from our upper management and the rest of our team, so that’s special, which is also going to fuel me on the floor. It’s a double-win.

How injury stints helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

How injury stints helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

LOS ANGELES -- Injuries are part of the NBA game and for a young player, they can be particularly cruel. A lot of first and second-year players have never experienced the lows that sitting out can bring. Watching from the sidelines can be a very lonely game.

If the right approach is taken, an injury can also be an opportunity to reassess what’s working and what’s not on the court. Watching a game from the sidelines, listening to a coach or a veteran and hitting the film room can help develop a player as well.

Marvin Bagley has seen action in 54 games this season for the Sacramento Kings, but two separate stints on the injured list cost the top prospect a total of 17 games. The injuries were spaced out and may have even helped break the season into smaller blocks.

The first injury came 26 games into Bagley’s career when he came down hard against the Warriors and sustained a bone bruise on his left knee. After missing 11 out of 12 games, he returned to action and instantly started to produce.

A second injury 21 games later cost Bagley another five contests and since his return, he’s become a double-double machine.

“I was still doing stuff while I was out - still working out, conditioning, and doing stuff like that,” Bagley insisted. “I feel pretty good. It’s just about finishing off these last few games we have strong and leading that into the next season.”

While away from the game, the former Duke star didn’t just sit around. He worked on both his body and his mind. The mental aspect of the game may have been the most important piece.

“Oh yeah, I was watching and studying it, watching film, seeing what I could do better,” Bagley said. “I’ve been trying to work on it. Ever since I got back in, it’s been working for me. I just have to keep going, keep playing, and, like I said, finish out strong.”

Bagley roasted the Lakers for 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday evening in the Kings’ 111-106 loss to the Lakers. He played 36 minutes off the bench for Dave Joerger, seeing time at both the center and power forward position.

“He’s got lots to learn and we’re always trying to teach him throughout the course of games different things,” Joerger said.

Against the Lakers, it was trial by fire. Joerger even left the rookie in to face one of the greatest players the NBA has ever known.

“It was a good experience for him. He guarded LeBron [James], LeBron guarded him a little bit,” Joerger said. “There’s a lot of experience there.”

Following his first stint against James, the coaching staff took a moment to go over the positives and negatives they saw in his approach on both ends of the court. Bagley is a sponge and took it all in for the next time he saw the matchup.

“He jots all of that stuff down,” Joerger said. “He’s very cerebral and he’ll continue to learn and get better.”

Since returning from his latest setback, Bagley is crushing the opposition, despite playing on a minutes restriction for much of the time. In the seven games since his return, the athletic big is averaging 20.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in just 26.1 minutes per game.

[RELATED: What we learned from Kings' loss to Lakers]

He’s also added the 3-point shot to his game since his return, knocking down 8-of-16 from long range over the stretch. Bagley has always had the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his confidence, despite coming off an injury, is at an all-time high.

The Kings have nine games remaining on the 2018-19 schedule. At 36-37, they are playing for pride and the possibility of finishing the season above the .500 mark.

As they get closer to the season’s conclusion, it’s clear that Bagley is a keeper. He has the look and feel of a franchise cornerstone. He has a nice long break coming up to continue his development both on and off the court.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- In a game of runs, the Sacramento Kings ran out of gas Sunday evening at Staples Center. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket the entire night.

Sacramento continued to hang around throughout the game, but Kyle Kuzma put up huge numbers and LeBron James notched his 81st career-triple double to hand the Kings a 111-106 loss.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped back under the .500 mark on the season at 36-37.

Energizer Bunny

Marvin Bagley has springs in his legs, even when the rest of the roster doesn’t. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings’ rookie big looked fresh. The 20-year-old rolled through the Lakers' defense, scoring 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting in 36 minutes. He added 11 rebounds and a block, but it wasn’t enough to come away with the win. Since returning from injury, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is crushing it, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds per game.

A third to forget

The Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early, but they slowly came around in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the half. Los Angeles came out hot in third and ran the Kings off the court. Led by the hot shooting of Kuzma, the Lakers outscored the Kings 39-28 in the period to take a 10-point lead into fourth. Kuzma torched the Kings for 21 of his 29 points in the 12-minute stretch, hitting 7-of-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range.

The Rally

Sacramento looked dead in the water coming out of the third, but the Kings never stop playing. Bagley and Bogdan Bogdanovic kept the Kings afloat in the fourth to make things interesting. After trailing by as many as 17 in the third, the Kings reduced the Lakers' lead all the way down to two multiple times in the final three minutes, but they couldn’t get the big shot to fall when they needed it.