On Tuesday, a night that the organization and fans want to forget, something of note did happen. It may not go down in the annals of Dallas Mavericks history as franchise altering, but it’s at least worth mentioning. With 4:21 left in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns, Willie Cauley-Stein checked into the game, playing his first minutes as a member of the team.
It was a whirlwind getting to this moment for the 7-foot tall, five-year veteran center out of the University of Kentucky. Last Friday, in the wake of the season-ending injury to Dwight Powell, the Mavericks traded for him. Cauley-Stein soon joined the team and received a crash course education of the Mavs’ playbook.
“It’s been a good two days,” Cauley-Stein said. “But I think I got enough under my belt where I can come in and make an impact. And then after that, it’s just comfortability at that point.”
That comfort level is still some time away. Much like the game, which was the largest blowout loss the Mavericks suffered this season, Cauley-Stein probably doesn’t want to remember his first shot attempt in a Dallas uniform. Seconds after checking in, he missed a wide-open dunk. Not every introduction goes smoothly.
He went on to have a decent game, though. He finished the night with four points, three rebounds, and two steals in a little over 12 minutes of action. That’s not bad for someone who is still learning the ropes.
“He came into the game and you can see where he can really add something to our team,” Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle said after the game.
It’s going to take time for Cauley-Stein to become acclimated to Carlisle’s offensive and defensive schemes. The Mavericks’ coach did everything he could to get him ready to play as soon as he did with extremely limited time and travel constraints. It’s not as easy as just drawing up a few basic plays for him to memorize.
“We had a small group go over after our meeting [Monday] morning and do 30 to 45 minutes of stuff, offensively and defensively. He came in [Tuesday] morning and did some shooting and went through things with the interns,” Carlisle said. “We’ll try and get him reps and show him a little more film.
“You just got to get him the right doses of things so that the stuff can stick and he can keep building on it over a period of hopefully about a week to 10 days. And then hopefully, he has most everything.”
While he’s still becoming acquainted with the offense, he likes the potential he sees with the way Dallas sets the pace, spreads the floor out, and runs high pick-and-rolls with playmakers like Luka Doncic. However, it’s not just the offense that excites him. It’s also an opportunity to prove himself. After all, this is Cauley-Stein’s third team to play for in five seasons.
“It’s for sure a great opportunity to kind of restart my career and try to find a home and it’s a perfect spot,” Cauley-Stein said. “Just the way they play kind of fits the strengths of my game.”
Everyone may want to forget the night, but he is now one game into his Mavericks career. Hopefully, the rest are more memorable.