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Willie Cauley-Stein not shy about having big payday on his mind

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings

Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said what no other player hoping to land contract would, admitting he’s looking forward to his payday after proving himself this 2018-19 season. Despite his brash approach to what could be a seminal moment in his career, Cauley-Stein is looking to repay the faith instilled in him by vice president Vlade Divac and assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic — a tandem that once saw the franchise’s glory days in the early 2000s.

The Kings took a massive risk by trading their All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in 2017, leaving Cauley-Stein as the de-facto big dipper in the middle, despite a run of inconsistent minutes in prior stints on the floor.

“By all means it’s not out of it,” Willie Cauley-Stein told Jason Jones of The Athletic. “I have a complete goal of what I want to get and how to get there and they’re giving me the tools to get there and that’s dominating both sides of the floor. They’ve made it clear, dominate both sides of the floor and what you think is going to happen is going to happen. So that’s what I came in to do.”

The Kentucky big man has shown flashes of brilliance during his first year as the primary starter, getting 57 nods in 73 games played in 2017-18. His progression has been somewhat steady, but not enough to warrant the payday he’s been so hellbent in getting thus far.

“We talk about Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, sometimes it was frustrating,” Divac said. “We can see what he can be and sometimes he shows you his high ceiling is unbelievable and sometimes he struggles and it goes off and on all the time.

“We’re talking the last couple years that we know what he can do, the thing he has to be is consistent.”

Divac, who carved his niche in the NBA as one of the craftiest pivot men at his position, noted Cauley-Stein doesn’t need to be a scoring stud, but rather just the best version of what he can be.

“It’s pretty simple — dominate both sides of the floor and they just really think I’m a double-double guy, which I agree,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “I think we all can agree on that. They just want to see that consistently and for myself I want to see it too. And that’s one of the biggest things I’ve been working on, being consistent and keeping that same frame of mind every game and just go out there and hoop.”

If he can prove to be a nightly double-double presence with some sprinkles of defense, the Kings could suddenly feel confident enough to reward him for his efforts with the payday he’s been seeking all along.