Last season couldn’t have started much worse for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In his first 10 games for the Los Angeles Lakers, Caldwell-Pope averaged 5.2 points per game on 36.2% from the field and 23.8% from behind the arc while averaging 19.6 minutes per game. He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
This season, things have been different for the 27-year-old shooting guard. Coming off the most efficient season of his career, Caldwell-Pope has averaged 10 points per game on 55.6% from shooting from the field and 52.6% from 3-point range in the first six games of the 2020-21 season. He’s also shot 90.9% from the charity stripe, and posted a plus-minus of 9.2.
It’s highly unlikely that Caldwell-Pope’s shooting percentages will hold for the season — if they did, he’d be the first member of the “50-50-90” club. However, what is sustainable is the confidence he’s playing with, which LeBron James believes is at “an all-time high.”
“He knows what his value is to this team, and he knows what he’s about,” James said after the Lakers’ 109-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. “What he brings to our team is perfect in his role: a guy who is a catch-and-shoot 3-point player, a guy who is a great cutter, great in transition, and also can just give us a lot of movement, get defenses shifted because of his speed. It works for our team perfectly, and when you have that confidence in yourself, it trickles down to the team.”
Caldwell-Pope’s confidence in himself is the most apparent on the court, but he was feeling confident well before the season started. In December, Caldwell-Pope said his confidence was “through the roof,” which probably had something to do with the fact that he was crowned an NBA champion in October, and the three-year, $40 million contract he signed in November. I’d feel pretty good too.
Unfortunately, Caldwell-Pope may be forced to slow down a bit. In Friday’s contest, Caldwell-Pope suffered a mild ankle sprain and didn’t return. While Caldwell-Pope has hopes of playing when the Lakers take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, the team has listed him as questionable.
Caldwell-Pope’s availability will be updated closer to tip-off, which is at 3 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet for local markets and NBA TV for national markets.