When the Los Angeles Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency last summer, general manager Rob Pelinka referred to him in biblical terms, comparing the guard to bread that dropped from heaven to save the Israelites.
Caldwell-Pope didn’t quite live up to those astronomical expectations — almost no one could — but he did impress for the Lakers, and he was happy with the skills he was able to bring to the team.
“I thought I fit in well. When I first talked to Luke, Magic and Rob about what they wanted to do, and drafting Lonzo and Kuz, I thought I fit in well,” Caldwell-Pope said.
“They wanted to play with a fast pace. I thought I fit right alongside with Lonzo, running the wing. My overall season, I feel like this is the best season I’ve had since I’ve been in the league.”
Caldwell-Pope contributed 13.7 points and shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range, while also playing stellar defense on opponents’ best wing options. He was also one of the Lakers’ best players outside of the month he was incarcerated, something that obviously wasn’t easy for Caldwell-Pope.
“It kind of affected me a lot. I couldn’t see my family like I wanted to. It also affected me on the court, not knowing what was going to happen,” he said. “That was mostly on my mind. Just getting through that situation.”
Once the legal matter was put to bed, he was ready to perform, and felt a newfound freedom and joy to do so.
“I felt a release. That really just made me get that focus on basketball and just playing freely,” Caldwell-Pope explained.
Far less serious than incarceration, but still disappointing for Caldwell-Pope was the fact that his “best season” individually couldn’t help L.A. break its postseason drought.
“I think everybody’s expectation was making the playoffs, getting better. We wanted to make the playoffs but due to our slow start and injuries, we couldn’t make it happen,” he said.
The only other regret for Caldwell-Pope? Leaving some freebies on the table when the team was only outscored by an average of 1.6 points per 100 possessions, and he said Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told him to try to fix.
“Only thing he told me was my free throws. He said I should be an 80-percent or high free throw shooter,” Caldwell-Pope said.
As for whether or not Johnson will see the result of any such free throw improvements, the soon-to-be NBA free agent demurred.
“We couldn’t really talk about much because of my free agency. We really just talked about my season and how well it went. Talked about my summer and where I’m going to be, and what I need to work on,” Caldwell-Pope said.
The veteran guard said his priority in free agency will be focusing on finding “stability” and doing what is best for his family, who could be looking for their third home in two years, but he’s staying away from making any type of biblical proclamations about his next destination.
“My future is always on my mind but I’ve got to leave it up to my agent,” Caldwell-Pope said.