Kentavious Caldwell-Pope almost didn’t warm up before the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Milwaukee Bucks.
Earlier in the week, Caldwell-Pope had trained with his shooting coach for the first time in three months, and felt the results nearly instantaneously, evidently to the point that he was bragging to former Detroit Pistons and current Lakers teammate Reggie Bullock about how he “was feeling different” and knew his shots were going to go in.
Caldwell-Pope was so confident, in fact, that he wasn’t sure he needed to go shoot around before the game.
Still, Bullock insisted Caldwell-Pope come shoot with him, and the results of both sessions were on full display as Caldwell-Pope scorched the Bucks for 35 points on 8-14 shooting from behind the arc.
“I wasn’t going to shoot for pregame, but (Bullock) made me go shoot and I really appreciate that,” Caldwell-Pope told reporters after the game. “That really got me going, just going out there and just seeing the ball go through the net.”
The ball certainly swished through the net a lot, and while the Lakers ultimately fell in a 115-101 loss after Caldwell-Pope tweaked his ankle — he said after the game that he’ll be fine — he kept them in the game for a lot longer than they would have been otherwise, mainly with a 21-point explosion (while hitting five of his eight threes) in the second quarter.
“Light’s out. That’s my boy. I’m proud of him,” Bullock told reporters on Spectrum Sportsnet. “I believe in his game. I’ve been with him since I’ve been in Detroit. I know what type of player he is. He can get hot, he’s very tough to cover.”
“He had one of those nights where everything you throw up goes in,” added Lakers guard Josh Hart.
Sometimes teammates can exaggerate or hyperbolize to hype up their guy, but Caldwell-Pope said that’s actually how he felt.
“It just feels like everything I throw up is gonna go in. That’s the mindset I had coming into this game,” Caldwell-Pope said.
Just about everything did, allowing Caldwell-Pope to score the second-most points of his career, and it wasn’t just shooting around with Bullock or his shooting coach that he credited for his success.
“I had a great nap,” Caldwell-Pope said, and for those of you looking to shoot like him, he was kind enough to explain what his secret to a great pre-game nap is, saying he tries to keep it to 45 minutes to an hour.
“I woke up feeling good, and it started from there. I came in, got my treatment, went out and shot,” Caldwell-Pope continued. “I just was feeling good throughout the whole day when I got up from my nap.”
He awoke to the most points he’s ever scored as a Laker, and it’s fair to wonder if he has more than the team’s remaining 11 games to try and top that mark. Because while Caldwell-Pope may have been sensational against Milwaukee, he’s mostly failed to live up the expectations that developed when the Lakers brought him back on a one-year, $12 million deal over the summer, averaging 10.1 points and shooting 34.6 percent from 3-point range.
Those are decent stats, but not the type of spacing the Lakers were probably hoping for after Caldwell-Pope shot a career-high 38.3 percent from distance last season, and while anything is possible, these last few games might be serving as more of an audition for other teams than to remain in L.A.
But Caldwell-Pope says the Lakers can’t worry about where they go in free agency right now. Wherever he ends up, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t waste this final opportunity to prove himself before the summer, even if that’s not the way he wanted the season to end.
“It’s great,” Caldwell-Pope said of these final chances for himself and his teammates to audition for free agency. “There’s opportunities for everybody. Unfortunately we’re not in the playoffs. I wish we was, but these minutes and the games that we have left is a real opportunity for everybody to go out there and show what you got.”
All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.