When Dallas Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein found out he was going to be in the starting lineup for Monday’s game against Houston, the conversation he had with coach Rick Carlisle about the move wasn’t very long.
In fact, Cauley-Stein said: “It was brief. It wasn’t really even a conversation. In our morning meeting we were going over the matchups and he gave us the call that he was going to switch up the lineup today, and that was about as far as it went.”
Cauley-Stein took to the news very well, then produced season highs of 15 points and seven rebounds in helping the Mavs unplug the fuse on the Rockets’ high-powered offense for a 113-100 triumph. In making his first start of the season, Cauley-Stein also contributed two assists, a steal and a blocked shot, and also helped clog the middle that kept Rockets guards James Harden and John Wall at bay.
“He’s been doing this since he was in Sacramento,” said guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored 30 points off the bench. “He’s been a starter in this league, he knows how to carry himself as a professional. He’s done all the dirty work, he’s proven himself on and off the floor, and in practice just making sure that the second and third groups make it tough on us starters.”
Cauley-Stein played a season-high 24 minutes and Carlisle insists he earned every one of them.
“We’ve been at our best defensively this year when he’s been on the floor,” Carlisle said. “He has a great level of respect for his teammates, he’s a very likeable person.
“Everybody’s really happy for him the way he’s playing. He’s just doing a lot of things that really impact the game positively for us.”
In the first quarter, Cauley-Stein scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in six minutes. And he scored seven points early in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 69-54.
One of Cauley-Stein’s baskets in the third quarter came when Luka Doncic found him streaking down the floor, and he hit him with a laser pass that wound up being a dunk. After that, Doncic and Cauley-Stein negotiated a pair of alley-oop dunks.
“He was great the whole game,” said Doncic. “He kept running the floor and he was open and that gave us a lot.
“But I don’t think it’s just today. He just got keep going like this, and we’re really happy to have him.”
From a mental standpoint, Cauley-Stein said there’s not much difference in game preparation from him in regards to whether he’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench.
“I approach the game the same way whether I’m playing three minutes, coming off the bench, starting,” he said. “I’m going to come in and play hard and try to finish hard and finish plays, and just kind of fly all over with that energy.
“But I think the biggest difference might be during the pregame warmups. If I’m not starting I’ll go straight into shooting threes. If I’m starting I’m going to start in a little closer (to the basket) and get my touch shots and then move out to the 3-point line and get my normal routine going.”
Either way, the Mavs know they’re fortunate to have someone of Cauley-Stein’s talents that they can plug into the starting lineup whenever they can. Going big against Houston’s smaller lineup paid off.
“It was great that his number was called and he was out there producing,” Hardaway said. “We’re all happy for him and hope he can continue to keep that pace because we’re going to need him.”
Carlisle praises Silas: Rick Carlisle showed his appreciation for Stephen Silas, who was one of his assistant coaches with the Dallas Mavericks the past two years.
“He was great for us,” Carlisle said prior to Monday’s game against the Houston Rockets. “Great basketball knowledge, great feel for the game, great feel for people, great relationship builder.”
All those accolades from Carlisle about Silas are probably some of the reasons why the Rockets hired him as their head coach on Oct. 28.
“He did a great job coordinating our offensive efforts over the last couple of years and he’s so very deserving of this opportunity,” Carlisle said. “I’m really happy for him and his family – wonderful people.
“I have a long history with their family. I coached with his dad, Paul. Paul and I were assistant coaches for Chuck Daly back in ‘93 and ’94 back in New Jersey. While I didn’t have a lot of overlap with Stephen at that time, Paul’s a long-time friend and another highly respected basketball man in our business.”
Carlisle ran into Silas at the Mavs’ offices shortly after the latter was hired by the Rockets.
“He was getting all of his stuff out of the office and we happen to overlap for a few moments, and it was great,” Carlisle said. “I was very hopeful to get the chance to thank him for everything that he did for us.
“It’s a great move by the Houston Rockets to hire him. They were familiar with him from the interview process four years ago when he was the finalist along with Mike D’Antoni, and he was very close to getting the job at that time. This time he made it happen and they made it happen, so that was really tremendous.”