Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is partially responsible for one of the greatest Rob Pelinka quotes of all time, which is high praise considering he once compared Lonzo Ball to Steve Jobs, and the Lakers to Taylor Swift.
During Caldwell-Pope’s introductory press conference in 2017, Pelinka famously suggested that the Caldwell-Pope was God’s gift to the Lakers.
“I would venture to guess that there are people in the room that are familiar with the stories in the book of Genesis, where there was a time when the Israelites were wandering the desert and, all of a sudden, bread came down from heaven,” Pelinka said. “That’s kind of what today feels like for us, to have KCP join.”
It was silly at the time, and it’s only gotten sillier in the years that have passed because of Caldwell-Pope’s inconsistent production. However, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, Caldwell-Pope showed up right when the Lakers needed him, like bread that came down from heaven.
In the final few minutes of Game 4, when there was little separating the Lakers from the Miami Heat, Caldwell-Pope made back-to-back baskets that increased his team’s lead from two points to seven points. They might have not been the biggest shots of the night, but those five points gave the Lakers the boost they needed to close out the game and take a 3-1 lead in the series.
Following the game, Frank Vogel praised Caldwell-Pope for having the “guts” to take shots he could only describe as “huge.”
“He’s a confident young man,” Vogel said. “He’s been a huge part of our success this year for what he does on both ends of the floor. I was proud of him and Danny for having bounce-back games offensively. We need everybody to participate and contribute and we’re a team-first team. Obviously we have our two big horses but everybody’s got to contribute that’s out there, and proud of both those guys for stepping up.”
That confidence hasn’t always been there for Caldwell-Pope. At the start of the season, which was almost a year ago now, Caldwell-Pope couldn’t get his shots to fall with any consistency. Through the first 10 games of the regular season, Caldwell-Pope shot 36.2% from the field, including 23.8% from behind the arc.
The sample size was small, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Caldwell-Pope, who had gone on cold streaks like that throughout the 2018-19 season. This season has been a different story for KCP. In the regular season, Caldwell-Pope shot a career-high 38.5% from 3-point range, and in the postseason, he’s maintained that efficiency on two more attempts per game (5.5).
Outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Caldwell-Pope has arguably been the Lakers’ most consistent player, but it wasn’t easy for him to get to this point — it required a lot of patience and self-belief on his part.
“Just staying with the game,” Caldwell-Pope, “You’re not going to knock down every shot you shoot, but just staying with that flow. Drive, get a foul, go to the free-throw line and try to get a rhythm there, or just play the game. Make plays. Do other things. Try to stay in the rhythm. That’s what I do. I try not to worry about it if I’m not getting shots or not. I know they are going to eventually come. Just trying to stay within myself.”
Caldwell-Pope is still prone to making the same mistakes that get Lakers fans up from their couches, but now he does more than enough good to outweigh the bad, and on a regular basis. He might not be bread from heaven, but his performance in Game 4 was heavenly.