Few people in the world can relate to the vitriol aimed at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a damn near nightly basis to the extent that Dwight Howard can. Howard spent more than half a decade on the wrong end of hatred from Lakers fans that felt he didn’t live up to expectations in his first time around with the franchise, and when he saw that aimed at a teammate, he stepped in.
Caldwell-Pope has become the butt of a seemingly endless stream of jokes thanks to his extremely loud mistakes this year. Those comments continued on a night where he injured himself, but Howard wasn’t having it. He took to social media immediately after the game to leave this comment after a fan went after KCP in the Lakers’ Instagram comments:
Late in Wednesday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors (or what’s left of them), Caldwell-Pope missed a layup and landed awkwardly. After grabbing at the back of his lower leg a bit, he limped off the court and into the locker room. Check the replies to this tweet to see what the mood was immediately as it happened:
Don’t want to play internet doctor, but KCP’s injury looked to be in the achilles area.— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) November 14, 2019
And say what you will about him (he’s been the butt of many of my jokes), but the Lakers would actually miss his defense. His mistakes are just incredibly loud.
After the game, our very own Harrison Faigen asked Howard about that response on social media and why Howard felt the need to come to Caldwell-Pope’s defense. Howard’s full answer is pretty incredible.
“Because we’re a family. We talk about Lakers Nation, we talk about winning a championship, and we need everybody on the same page. KCP is my teammate. He’s my brother. And he’s a part of this family. We don’t talk bad about nobody that’s on our team,” Howard said.
“We’re gonna need KCP to win this championship, and I don’t think it’s right for anybody to wish any type of harm or any type of danger on my teammate. Of course there’s going to be nights where guys miss shots, miss layups but we need to set a standard,” Howard continued. “If we want to win a championship, everybody has got to have that same championship mentality. We’ve got to be on the same page. If we’re on the same page as an organization and as a fanbase and as a team, there’s nothing that we can’t accomplish.
“I don’t really like anybody talking about my brother like that. We shouldn’t do that. The fans should not do that. We’re together in this. If we win, everybody wins. That’s just how I look at it.”
Let’s first start with fans in any way, shape, or form rooting for injury. Don’t. Just don’t. Professional athletes have a very short amount of time to cash in on their incredible physical gifts before their careers are over, and anything that risks that earning potential shouldn’t be mocked, ever.
In KCP’s case specifically, even while he has become an easy target for jokes, he’s actually been a hugely positive impact on the team this year overall. When he’s been on the court, the Lakers only surrender 95 points per 100 possessions. Of players who’ve gotten legitimate minutes this season, that’s the second lowest defensive rating of anyone on the team (Alex Caruso hold a DRTG of 93.8, but holding anyone to his standard is simply unfair).
Caldwell-Pope has helped defensively, and if he misses considerable time, the Lakers would really miss him.
None of this is really the point Howard is making, either, by the way.
Howard knows what it felt like to draw the ire of a fan base as large as the Lakers’. Whether it’s in the arena on nights where the team Howard played for took on the Lakers or on social media, it had to have sucked to have been constantly berated the way Howard was. So of course he has a soft spot for Caldwell-Pope, who so consistently gets crapped on by the fan base he plays for, and even has been booed at least once during recent home games.
Coming to Caldwell-Pope’s defense the way Howard did is just another chapter in this incredible maturation process Howard has been going through. It’s been astonishing to watch and has become one of the cooler stories not just this season, but in quite some time.
So here’s hoping Caldwell-Pope’s injury isn’t too severe and that Howard continues his redemption arc. With Howard as the ultimate example, anyone can make good on a second chance, so if and when that opportunity presents itself for KCP, his teammates and the Lakers fan base should hope he rises to the occasion the way Howard has. Howard just wants them to give KCP the chance to.