When Kentavious Caldwell-Pope first arrived to Los Angeles in 2017, he was a soft-spoken 24-year-old who wanted to show that he not only belonged in the NBA, but could play a pivotal role in bringing the Lakers back to championship contention. While it took longer than he would have liked, he did it eventually, and now he’s as confident as he’s ever been.
Coming off of a successful championship run as a starter, Caldwell-Pope is having the most efficient season of his career, averaging 10.1 points on 52.7% shooting from the field and shooting a scalding hot 56.9% from behind the arc. No player that has attempted at least 50 3-pointers this season has shot a higher percentage than him from 3-point range.
Caldwell-Pope’s most prolific 3-point display came on Thursday, when the Lakers played the Milwaukee Bucks. In just over 27 minutes of playing time, Caldwell-Pope scored 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting from behind the 3-point line. Yes, you read that correctly: He made seven 3-pointers. Even Alex Caruso couldn’t believe it.
“He made seven threes?” Caruso said after the Lakers’ win on Thursday. “I didn’t even know that.”
He makes it look EASY! I’m just so use to it I didn’t realize https://t.co/sxnBsy6e9d— Alex Caruso (@ACFresh21) January 22, 2021
To be fair to Caruso, though, Caldwell-Pope didn’t know he had that many either. He also didn’t know that LeBron James had six, which is oddly convenient when you consider the back-and-forth they’ve have had this month.
“There’s really no competition,” Caldwell-Pope said with a smirk on his face. “We just get this streak going where he’s hitting some big threes, I hit one big three. It’s just playing the game to win. We’re not competing against each other.”
If there is a friendly competition going on behind the scenes, James lost on Thursday, but he was still happy to see his teammate have a big game, and he hopes Caldwell-Pope continues to let it fly from behind the arc.
“KCP, he knows why he’s out on the floor,” James said. “That’s to spread that floor, that’s to give us a lot of energy... When he’s open, we want him to shoot it. When he’s guarded closely, we want him to still shoot it. When he’s shooting the ball, he’s just so good. He’s just so good for our ball club.
“He just gives us a different dynamic. He just gives everyone energy, and we love when he’s taking and making shots, and we love when he’s just aggressive and being himself. That’s big time.”
For Caldwell-Pope, “being himself” hasn’t always worked because in the past, he’s lost confidence in himself as a result of his shots not falling. But with the help of his teammates and his coaches, Caldwell-Pope is at a place where he feels comfortable with himself and his role with the team.
“It’s just the confidence in the work I put in,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I know where my shots are going to come from, where I need to be to get them shots, and just being in a great rhythm every game. I try not to worry about no missing shots.
“I mean, I had two or three shots last game against Golden State. I try not to let that mess with my mind, that I’m not getting shots. I know they’re going to come. It’s just being ready to shoot and staying in a good rhythm.”
And if there are days that Caldwell-Pope needs a reminder from his teammates, they’re happy to remind him just how good he is.
“We got onto him a little bit as a team as a team about shooting shots last game that he passed up,” Caruso said. “He’s shooting 50% percent. You should shoot it every time you touch it and you’re open.”
Caldwell-Pope’s shooting percentages will almost assuredly level out over time, but for now, he has every reason to feel as confident as he does. Hopefully — even if his percentages drop — that confidence won’t go away.