Kings’ George Karl going to start Willie Cauley-Stein at at four

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Willie Cauley-Stein‘s seven-foot length and crazy athleticism let him cover up a lot of mistakes from high school and at Kentucky (John Calipari had him playing to his strengths). But the NBA game requires quicker recognition and a higher basketball IQ.

Cauley-Stein admits he’s adjusting to that, as reported by James Ham at

“I didn’t realize that there is so much to the game, besides playing the game, so that’s where I’m at now,” the former Kentucky star said. “From a mental standpoint of just understanding the NBA as a whole as a concept.”

He’s picked it up enough that George Karl is going to start him at the power forward spot next to DeMarcus Cousins, something the coach said after a recent practice.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Karl said. “I would say right now, Willie’s probably going to start. I’m not sure of that yet, but I think that’s probably where I’m heading.”

Part of that is that Cauley-Stein is athletic and can run the floor well, fitting better with the up-tempo style Karl wants to play. Plus he brings some shot blocking. Karl could have tried to start Cousins and Kosta Koufos, but that’s not exactly a running lineup. That said, I don’t expect to see heavy minutes for Cauley-Stein either (21-22 a game is my guess).

What I do expect to see more and more of from the Kings as the season goes on is small ball, with Rudy Gay and others playing a stretch four. Karl is going to massage lineups and figure out what makes them most competitive.