Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could not hit a shot for the Los Angeles Lakers to start the season, and that’s not hyperbole.
In his first two regular season appearances, Caldwell-Pope shot a combined 0-9 from the field in 48 minutes. His first point didn’t come until his second game, when he went 1-2 from the free-throw line.
Given the amount of scrutiny Caldwell-Pope’s $16.5 million deal got this past summer, it was a less than ideal start for the 26-year-old shooting guard. Since then, though, his numbers have started to normalize. HIs season-high in both points and field goal percentage came against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, when he scored 14 points on 5-9 shooting from the field.
After the game, Caldwell-Pope told reporters that he had to take some time to himself and get in the right place mentally:
KCP started the season 0-of-9. He's 16-of-33 since. "Last night I had a long talk with myself just about being aggressive and just playing free out there," he said Sunday. "I cleared my mind and my heart just found the love of the game again. I just had fun out there tonight."— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 4, 2019
That talk made all the difference, and his teammates praised him for the way he bounced back, including Anthony Davis, who said he was happy to see Caldwell-Pope hit some shots:
“KCP came in and played well. Made big shot after big shot ... When we’ve got shooters like that and guys are getting great looks and making them, it’s hard for guys to come double team. They’re very hesitant. And when they don’t, we try to make them pay as much as possible on the inside, and if they do we kick it out to our guys to make big shots.”
Frank Vogel also shouted out Caldwell-Pope for coming up big down the stretch:
“KCP hit probably the two biggest shots of the game, and for a guy that’s been struggling out of the gates, it’s great to see him step up at a time when we needed and be able to secure the victory.”
Hitting shots hasn’t gone hand in hand with Caldwell-Pope’s success this season, though. Despite shooting 38.8% from the field on the season, Caldwell-Pope is posting the fourth-highest net rating on the team behind Dwight Howard, Quinn Cook and LeBron James. Of those players, he’s allowed the fewest points per 100 possessions (92.7).
His ability to make an impact in spite of his cold shooting earned him the starting nod while Avery Bradley was sidelined for the Lakers’ matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. While he was fairly pedestrian on both ends of the floor, he earned the right to be there.
Hopefully as the Lakers work their way back to full strength, Caldwell-Pope settles into a smaller role off the bench that he can be productive in. For now, though, he’s offering more than his numbers suggest.