Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knows what it’s like to trend for all the wrong reasons. Early on in the season, Lakers fans were so tough on him online that teammate Dwight Howard felt he had to come to Caldwell-Pope’s defense publicly, so it’s safe to say he can relate to the same kind of cyberbullying happening to Danny Green throughout the playoffs.
And while Caldwell-Pope has since turned his play around to become one of the most reliable Lakers in the postseason this year, Green’s positive performances have been few are far between in the playoffs. Averaging just 8.6 points per game and shooting 36.5% from deep, Green has been okay, but even with his positive defensive contributions, he’s hardly looked like the type of guy most fans think of as a $15 million player.
Now, there is some context to all that — the Lakers have been 21.2 points per 100 possessions better with Green on the floor than they were with him off, he’s a big part of their defensive success, and his contract is a function of the strange free agency market last summer as much as anything — but that’s not the type of nuance angry people watching him miss shots and tweeting or commenting meant things at him tend to take into account.
Green has been open about how the social media backlash to his performance made the bubble a dark place at times, and has clearly not always responded all that well to it. Green’s teammates never lost faith in him, though. It’s actually quite the opposite, as Caldwell-Pope talked at length about after the Lakers beat the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
“I’ve watched Danny in playoffs that he’s played in, and I’ve seen him knock down big shots consistently. For us as a team, we know what Danny can do,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We just encourage him every game to keep shooting. We know that Playoff Danny is going to come out and knock down shots like he did tonight.”
Green finished Game 1 with 11 points, hitting three of his eight threes to help the Lakers hit a franchise-best 11 threes in the first half, and make 15 total (their third-most this postseason). And while that may not be the type of “Playoff Danny” explosion fans were probably hoping for when the Lakers signed Green, it’s hard to argue with Caldwell-Pope’s assessment. Green hitting timely triples helped the Lakers turn Game 1 into a blowout, and his role in their defense was as important as ever.
“He was big for us tonight,” Caldwell-Pope said.
It was also really difficult not to hear Caldwell-Pope’s own experience getting thrashed online in his support for Green, almost as a way of paying Howard’s support forward. Caldwell-Pope knows better than anyone that the only way through these slumps is to keep shooting and try to stay confident, and his encouragement for Green just the latest example of the brotherhood and chemistry between these Lakers, and the way they’ve supported each other all year. It’s left them three wins away from a title, and if Green can have a true “Playoff Danny” moment at some point in this series like his starting backcourt mate suggests, that will only help them get even closer.