Willie Cauley-Stein made it clear at Kings Media Day: 'I'm ready to get paid'


Willie Cauley-Stein made it clear at Kings Media Day: 'I'm ready to get paid'

SACRAMENTO -- Media day usually is a lot of fluff and very little substance. It’s the equivalent of the first day of school. Everyone is wearing their favorite new outfit, which soon will be in the rotation and fade like every other garment in the drawer. 

Every once in a while, though, you hear something decidedly unique that stands out and becomes worthy of writing.

On Monday afternoon, Willie Cauley-Stein sat in the hot seat and bared his soul. In midseason form, the fourth-year center said exactly what was on his mind.

“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.”

It’s unlikely an extension offer for the 25-year-old center is coming from the Kings. He’ll likely play out the 2018-19 season under his rookie scale deal, and if Sacramento makes a qualifying offer, he’ll become a restricted free agent. 

A strong performance from Cauley-Stein could swing his future earnings by tens of millions of dollars, be it with the Kings or another team on the open market.

“Regardless of anything, I need this, right now, to change everybody’s lives that are believing in what I’m doing,” Cauley-Stein said. “That’s money. It’s richer than money, but I just need the money to do what I really need to do.”

The buzz word around the team is that they need to see consistency from the 7-footer if they are going to break the bank for his services. It’s a word that Cauley-Stein himself brought up in conversation.

“What I expect from Willie is to be consistent,” general manager Vlade Divac told NBC Sports California. “It’s a very important year for him.”

Cauley-Stein greatly improved in his third NBA season, posting 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 28 minutes per night. He started 58 games for coach Dave Joerger and played in 73 overall. 

The numbers are solid on paper, but there were nights when Cauley-Stein starred for the Kings and others when he almost completely disappeared. 

“Consistency, that’s the word of the decade for me,” Cauley-Stein said. “Consistency. That’s what’s going to get you paid. So I’m going to say it until it happens. That’s how it works these days. Just keep on talking about it, eventually it’s just going to happen.”

Cauley-Stein said that beginning two years ago when Joerger and his staff took over the Kings, he began investing in himself, hiring a mental coach, a physical coach and a nutritionist.  

“I just let myself go to the game, mentally and physically,” Cauley-Stein said of his preparation for this season. “Consistent work and that’s what I didn’t do in the past, was just consistently working on my game. I’d work on it for a while and then relax and kind of like, forget what I’m doing.”

Sacramento is loaded on the front line and has plenty of options if Cauley-Stein stumbles. If he plays to his potential, the Kings have an estimated $60 million in salary cap space to play with next summer. 

Through three seasons, Sacramento has been patient with Cauley-Stein's development. Taken with the sixth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, he’s been given every opportunity to figure out the pro game.

If he wants to get paid, which clearly is a motivating factor this season, he’ll need to produce each and every night he steps on the floor.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox coming into his own in second NBA season


Kings' De'Aaron Fox coming into his own in second NBA season

SACRAMENTO -- From the first moment De’Aaron Fox stepped on the floor in the weeks building up to training camp, everyone in the building said he looked like a different player.

Confident. Polished. Vocal.

Fox said he lost one pick-up game against his Kings teammates before the start of camp. He showed up ready to take a huge step in his sophomore season, and he’s done more than just get stronger and work on his jumper. 

With Garrett Temple exiting stage left during the annual summer purge, someone has to step up and take on a leadership role in Sacramento. There are a few veterans that have a voice, but with the focus shifting to the youth of the team, they need a leader on the floor. 

From the very first game of the season, Fox showed massive improvement and a willingness to take the reigns as the team’s floor general. 

“This is definitely a great start,” Fox told NBC Sports California. “I’ve just been a lot more vocal. Guys are listening, when I’m talking on the floor, everybody’s looking at me, so it’s just having that respect level. It’s hard to be a leader, especially in this league, especially being young, but it’s something I know I can do. I feel like I’m coming into my own as far as leadership is going.”

The work Fox did on his body is evident. He’s added mass, but more importantly, he’s added strength. His confidence level has never been in question, but it’s clear that he’s maturing both on and off the court.

“I feel like I’m a whole different player,” Fox said. “I feel like I’m a better shooter now. I feel like I make better decisions. I feel like I’m a better defender. I just feel like all around, my game is lot better. The game has slowed down for me. I feel like it’s just a totally different game.”

For the Kings to compete, they need Fox, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, to take a major step forward in his development. The coaching staff plans to run him out there for plenty of minutes and they hope he’s up to the task.

“He did a good job, he pressured up and got our defense started,” head coach Dave Joerger said after an opening night loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. “He’s going to have to log heavy minutes. I don’t know if he’s going to play 45 every night, but the more the better for him.” 

With the Kings pushing the tempo, Fox’s role with the team is paramount. They’ve designed their roster around his speed and quickness, and his teammates are counting on him to run the show.

“It’s vital for him to push the pace, get into the lane and spray it and move the ball around,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “He’s so gifted with that ball, so we have to have him attacking like that or we’re just standing around waiting. He starts that motion, everybody else plays off it.”

There is no let-up. After he played in 73 games last season, including 60 starts, the team needs more from the 20-year-old guard. Each and every night, Fox has to set the pace and the tempo for the game. It’s his energy level that the team will follow.

“I just always have to be in attack mode, I know it’s tough for 82 games, but I don’t think it’s something I can’t handle,” Fox said.

With Temple gone, Fox has turned to veteran Iman Shumpert as his advisor. The vocal wing is trying to impart as much knowledge as he can on his young understudy. 

“With all these guys, I’m just doing the things that the guys that I look up to in the league did for me,” Shumpert said. “They looked out for me and they said these things and those things helped me in my career and I try and give these guys those things. And then those things I felt like could have told me, that they didn’t tell me, the little secrets, I try to give them that too.”

Shumpert wants Fox to find his voice. He’s pushing him to lead on the floor, both in practice and during games. 

Following the loss to Utah on Wednesday, Fox said that for the first time, he had literally lost his voice in a game. He felt like his head coach, who lost his voice during the first few days of training last month.

This is all a learning process. Fox has star potential, but to be a star, he has to take ownership of every facet of the game. So far, he is showing a willingness to step forward, which could pay huge dividends for the Sacramento Kings in the future. 

Kings sign small forward Troy Williams to two-way contract


Kings sign small forward Troy Williams to two-way contract

The Kings have signed small forward Troy Williams to a two-way contract, the team announced on Saturday. 

Williams, 23, is a two-year NBA veteran. In those two years, he has played for three different teams. 

Last season between the Rockets and Knicks, Williams appeared in 21 games and averaged 6.3 points per game. He has averaged 6.2 games for his career over 51 games played. 

Williams went undrafted out of Indiana University. 

Every NBA team can have two players signed to two-way contracts to play between the NBA and the G-League. The Kings used their first one on forward Wenyen Gabriel.