Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills


Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

When Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein smiles on the court, he puts the gold in Golden State. His teeth shine with customized mouthguards that look like grills. 

“I ain’t think it would look that good, but they looked real," Cauley-Stein described. "They fit real."

The grills are standard plastic mouthguards, embellished with extra bling created by a jeweler friend who makes specialized pieces for athletes. They’re molded in a tray, just like braces.

Cauley-Stein has been wearing a real grill since college. He keeps up the look at work with a collection of mouthguard grills in rose gold, white gold and crystal, with the crystal version marked with two X’s. 

The two X’s are for a friend who passed away this summer.

“His name is Rexx, two X’s, so I’m carrying that on,” Cauley-Stein explained. 

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Cauley-Stein also has two X’s tattooed over his left eye. His skin is a canvas of tattoos that tell the story of his life. The gleam on his teeth gives him one more way to stand out. 

“A lotta people are like, ‘This dude doesn’t care about hoops, he’s got a freakin’ grill in his mouth!’ But it’s a mouthpiece!” he exclaimed. 

One thing Steve Kerr, Warriors always looking for when building roster

One thing Steve Kerr, Warriors always looking for when building roster

Everything with the NBA is up in the air right now.

But for the sake of this exercise, let's assume that at some point this summer or fall we have the NBA draft and free agency opens.

The Warriors have a lot of tools at their disposal to improve the roster and will be aggressive in doing so.

"The one thing we're always focused on is two-way players regardless of position," coach Steve Kerr told Warriors TV play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald. "The league largely has become position-less. You've got point guards and centers and then a whole bunch of guys like Andre Iguodala or Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard -- whoever you want to say.

"Somebody who can shoot 3s, who can guard multiple spots, can handle the ball, make decisions -- the more of those guys on your roster, the better. Multi-skilled, versatile players with size."

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So if you're a Warriors fan and you're thinking about which draft prospects and/or free agents the franchise will target, keep Kerr's comments in mind.

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He and general manager Bob Myers repeatedly over the years have discussed their desire to add guys who value both ends of the floor.

"You got to take the best guys available with an eye towards versatility because that's where the game is headed," Kerr added.

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Zaza Pachulia still in awe of 2016-17 Warriors' unquestioned greatness

Zaza Pachulia still in awe of 2016-17 Warriors' unquestioned greatness

Listening to and watching the likes of Stephen Curry , Steve Kerr and Zaza Pachulia lately, it’s as if Warriors of present and recent past are only now grasping that their dream was reality.

Which makes sense. When could they have savored the past five years? They’ve been too busy with nine-month seasons and nine-day summers to fully grasp the magnitude of their accomplishments.

Now, with routine activities on pause, it’s floating into their hearts and minds. They’re filling the void by looking back, and what they see is blowing their minds.

You see Curry and Chris Paul looking back on that night in 2015 when Steph put CP on skates and dropped him on the Staples Center floor. They’re laughing about it now, but that play was Curry planting a Warriors flag as his team was taking ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

You listen as Pachulia waxes euphoric about the days when he was the custodian for Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Curry. And getting nostalgic about the games, the postgames and the camaraderie, especially in 2016-17, when KD arrived.

“Even watching teams now,” Pachulia told NBC Sports Bay Area, “I don’t see any teams -- even us -- but none of the 30 teams are even close to what was going on with the 2016-17 team.”

That squad took an absolute thrashing from the Spurs on opening night, 129-100, at home. The Warriors regrouped and won 16 of their next 17. They were 50-9 before they lost back-to-back games. They had a 14-game win streak, a 12-game win streak and two seven-game streaks.

They were 67-15, all while treating the regular season as a rehearsal for the postseason, which they opened with a 15-game win streak.

“This might sound selfish,” Zaza said. “But the atmosphere and energy and chemistry, the type of basketball we played ... I don’t think we’re going see anything like that in the near future.

“And I’m not even talking about the talent. Do we need to talk about talent? It was crazy. Crazy. Listen, in the parking at our facility, on my right side was KD and on my left side was Steph. It was amazing. It’s still amazing.”

You hear Kerr recalling plays and games and moments that deserve a chapter in a book.

“When you just go back and think about the games, or watch individual games, it’s amazing how great that team was,” Kerr said recently. “And how well they played together even through the different personnel changes.”

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These guys never get tired of reliving it because they haven’t relived it enough to get tired of it.

There will be, someday, a documentary about the Warriors from 2014-2019. Has to be, considering the collection of talent, the high highs and low lows, the infighting they attributed to being family members seeking the best of each other.

Remember when Klay described these matters as “little bickerments?” Defined, in short, as a disagreement that exceeds the baseline for bickering but fails to reach the level of argument.

The calmest people in the room under those circumstances were Klay and Zaza, the buddies who perfectly centered that vast space between comatose and excitable.

And now Zaza is talking about the team dinners. Family, again. And the party that Curry hosted that led to the famous aerial team photo with the Super Villains backdrop. Everybody was glancing up except Klay, who was checking his phone.

“We had a picture taken by a drone!” Pachulia recalled. “We wanted to make sure everybody was in it, but it was hard with so many tall people to make everybody visible from a straight angle. So, we decided to fly the drone and took the picture that way.”

[RELATED: Why Steph-KD Warriors were Bay's best dynasty]

Those Warriors were young. Winning was fresh. Losing, particularly the 2016 Finals, gave them white-hot incentive. Their response was a season for the ages, one that belongs in the conversation with such fabled clubs as the ’27 New York Yankees, ’72 Miami Dolphins and ’85  Chicago Bears.

“Now that I have so much time, I’m able to look at so much of it,” Pachulia said. “Are you kidding me? I’m enjoying every box-out, and every screen. This is the best thing I could have done for this team, set screens for these amazing shooters. We’re winning. We’re destroying everybody.

“But you actually had to be in the locker room to really understand all of what I mean. A lot of people might wonder what I’m talking about. But I’m telling you, with all the details, the small details, the big details, winning a championship, building relationships, friendships, caring about each other, enjoying it and having fun.

“Man, it was priceless.”