Now that the first two chapters of his short NBA career have been written, Willie Cauley-Stein believes he’s in the perfect place to make sure the next episode is an exceedingly successful story.
And he believes Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is the man who’ll take him to greater heights.
“I think that’s why I’m here,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m a big believer in God’s plan. You know how the road has gone for me — I think it’s perfect.”
In his own words, Cauley-Stein is a firm believer that whatever warts remain with his game, Carlisle is the coach who can and will remove them.
“He’s the type of coach to get the best out of his players,” Cauley-Stein said. “He challenges you every day to get better, and I like that.
“I like to work, I like the challenge of coming to a new spot and trying to fit in right away. Your IQ really gets to come out, and this is an exciting moment.”
The Mavs acquired Cauley-Stein from Golden State on Saturday in exchange for a second-round draft pick. The 7-foot, 240-pound center was desperately needed by the Mavs after center Dwight Powell suffered a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon Jan. 21 against the LA Clippers.
Carlisle praised proprietor Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson for obtaining Cauley-Stein, who was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
“I like him,” Carlisle said. “He was enthusiastic when we took him over to the gym in the morning (on Monday).
“He got a lot of work in (Tuesday) morning and then some before the (Phoenix) game. And then he came in the game and you could see where he can really add something to our team. So, very good pickup by Donnie and Mark, and he’s a veteran player with experience that can help us in stretches.”
Cauley-Stein played 12 minutes against the Suns and contributed four points, three rebounds and a pair of steals. He was 2-of-4 from the field.
“I think I fit in great with these guys,” Cauley-Stein said. “The way I play I think has the strengths of what they do.
“I think I’ve got enough under my belt where I can come in and make an impact, and then after that it’s just the comfortability at that point.”
Cauley-Stein certainly is looking at the fit alongside Luka Doncic instead of trying to defend the All-Star point guard’s numerous paint attacks.
“Incredible pace for 20 (years old),” Cauley-Stein said of Doncic. “His pace is crazy. The way he controls the game it’s fun to watch. It was hard to play against him. Now I’m glad I get to play with him.”
Doncic is more than glad to have Cauley-Stein on board the Mavs’ ship.
“It’s hard (going) from one team to another,” Doncic said. “We’ve got to help him out, and he’s going to be great for us.”
Forward Justin Jackson already knows Cauley-Stein is going to be great for the Mavs. Jackson and Cauley-Stein were teammates with the Kings from June 22, 2017 until Jackson was traded to the Mavs on Feb. 6, 2019.
Needless to say, when Jackson heard the trade to acquire Cauley-Stein was finalized, he admitted: “I was hyped. We were in Utah and I texted him immediately.
“I spent a year-and-a-half there with him in Sacramento. For him to be back and us be on the same team again is cool.”
Cauley-Stein confirmed that after the trade was consummated, Jackson had “good things to say” about the Mavericks.
“I remember talking to him last year when his trade (to the Mavs) went down and how happy he was,” Cauley-Stein said. “He already had me geeked from the jump.”
Jackson also was geeked because he remembers Cauley-Stein averaging 12.8 points and seven rebounds and shooting 50.2 percent from the field in their only full year together during the 2017-’18 season.
“He’s definitely a team-first type guy, a guy that goes out there and plays hard, and at the end of the day plays the right way,” Jackson said. “He’s going to do everything he can to try to win, and never really get outside of himself or what the team really needs.
“So, I’m super excited to have him, for sure.”
Cauley-Stein also is amped up to be with the Mavs after signing a two-year free-agent contract with the Warriors last summer.
“I play hard, I play extremely hard, I play for my teammates,” Cauley-Stein said. “I just want to win. Anything that allows me to give another dimension to the team — just that will to win and that competitive spirit — that’s what you guys are going to get.”
That and, Cauley-Stein hopes, the best chapter yet of his NBA career.
“It’s for sure a great opportunity to kind of re-start my career and try to find a home,” he said. “Just the way they play kind of fits the strength of my game.
“Defensively, there’s a lot of freedom to create havoc. And that’s what I do, so it’s going to be fun.”