Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has enjoyed the rollercoaster to end all rollercoaster seasons. He started the year playing so poorly that he was getting booed at home while his teammates defended him on Instagram and in the media. Then, when Avery Bradley got hurt, Caldwell-Pope moved into the starting lineup, played out of his mind for a little while, but has fallen back down to earth right as the team awaits Bradley’s return.
What a wild, wild ride.
Caldwell-Pope told Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times that he thinks that brief resurgence had a lot to do with the role he was thrust into:
“When I was in the second unit, it just took me time to find my rhythm just playing with a lot of new guys,” Caldwell-Pope said. “But once I got in the starting lineup, it kind of just opened up a little bit. Most of the time I’m wide open because of LJ and AD (Anthony Davis). I just got to be ready to knock down shots. Once I was getting easy ones, free throw, a layup, whatever, it kind of opened up my rhythm for me.”
Pretty shocking development that playing more alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis would positively impact a player’s production.
Frank Vogel also shared his thoughts on the matter, and gave his typical effusive praise:
By working on his game and not giving in to the tough times he was experiencing, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Caldwell-Pope “earned the job more than me giving it to him.”
“We were talking about it last night. I don’t know if I’ve seen him play as well as he’s playing,” Vogel said. “I know he had some good years in Detroit. But it’s really not about his offense. He’s going out and bringing great energy and defensive proficiency on that end of the floor. It’s really allowed us to continue to win basketball games with Avery out. I’m really happy for him. He was getting some criticism early in the season. He’s responded in a big time way. He’s been a vital part of our recent winning.”
So a quick question: I’d be interested in a follow-up where someone asks Vogel if he thought Caldwell-Pope had earned the starting gig when Bradley first went down (rather than Vogel being forced to play him), or whether he meant that KCP has earned the right to the job even when Bradley comes back.
If it’s the first one, then the case is a little difficult to be made because Caldwell-Pope really wasn’t playing all that well, at least on the offensive side. If Vogel is making the case for KCP based on the defense he was playing at the beginning of the year — and really how he’s played on that end all season — then okay, that makes some sense.
If it’s the latter, well, then that kind of muddles the rotation, and there really isn’t a case to be made that Caldwell-Pope has played better in this role than Bradley did while healthy.
So with that in mind, I do believe it’s the first scenario and Vogel believed that KCP had earned the right to start over the other available options to fill the void left by Bradley because of his
ties to Klutch defense.
And you know what, Caldwell-Pope does deserve some credit for sticking with it even while he was getting booed during home games. Plenty of players would shut down after something like that, but he’s just kept plugging away. Yes, we’d all like to see him shoot more consistently and he absolutely makes the loudest mistakes on the team — if not in the league — but he’s been a fine player for the Lakers and has at the very least earned whatever role he continues to fill.