Even though the Sacramento Kings aren’t in rebuilding mode, it’s been perplexing to see their first round draft pick, Willie Cauley-Stein, only average 18 minutes per game considering he has the best net rating on the team. He looks every bit as good on defense as his obvious length and athleticism suggest, and he doesn’t overstep his limitations on offense. So, even though he missed twelve games with a finger injury and Omri Casspi has emerged as an above-average player, why hasn’t Willie Trill earned more minutes?
According to Kings head coach George Karl, it’s a conditioning issue. The coach told the Sacramento Bee that Cauley-Stein’s fitness “behind a little bit to play as fast as we want to play.” Even worse, Karl says the issue predates the finger injury. “I think the thing that sticks in the back of my head is I didn’t think he was in great shape in training camp, so I’m worried,” Karl said.
Rookies being behind the curve on fitness is never a good sign, but it’s also nothing new. The worse part of this story, of course, is Karl once again throwing his players under the bus publicly. It’s the blackest mark on his mostly-great coaching record, and the one that poisoned his relationship with DeMarcus Cousins from the outset. (They might be okay now.) Not every player responds to this sort of dirty laundry airing well, and with the weird locker room atmosphere the Kings already have, one more malcontent is the last thing they need.
Karl isn’t exactly going about voicing it the right way, but his sentiment is fair. Even if Cauley-Stein is a valuable piece for Sacramento when he’s on the floor (and he is), he can’t be out there if he can’t keep up with his team’s breakneck pace. For the sake of hoop heads everywhere, please get in shape, Willie.
(Via Sacramento Bee)