While the Los Angeles Lakers fully supported Avery Bradley in his decision to opt out of the NBA restart, there is no denying his decision represented a significant loss.
The Lakers went on to since secure backcourt depth in the form of JR Smith, who joined Dion Waiters in being a newcomer to the roster. Waiters was half a step ahead of Smith as he was signed just before the season was shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic back in March.
Regardless, it appears the onus will ultimately fall on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to once again slide into the starting lineup in Bradley’s absence. His experience filling in when needed has left the coaching staff feeling rather optimistic about the new, potential rotation.
“What you miss with Avery is having Avery and KCP out there at the same time: the depth. But KCP has been one of the brightest parts of our season. He had a terrific stretch, in particular that time when Avery was out,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said.
“After a little bit of a slow start, really being one of the leaders on our team in playing harder than the opponent. The hustle, the intensity, changing ends of the floor, and then the shot making he exhibited during that stretch and most of the season, was a huge reason for our record. We need two-way guys that play both ends of the floor.
“With his shot making ability and able to make plays off the bounce, as well as what he brings on the defensive end, he’s been a big part of our success this year.”
It is no secret that Caldwell-Pope struggled to make much of an impact on this revamped roster to start the season. Fortunately, he was eventually able to find his footing and wound up averaging 9.5 points while shooting career-high percentages from the field (47.2%) and three-point range (39.4%) through 63 games.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Lakers went 17-3 when Caldwell-Pope filled in as a starter. It is clear that his skillset as a two-way player helped pay huge dividends on both ends of the floor and it is something that Vogel is hoping to replicate in the bubble.
Danny Green embracing defensive challenge
Although it’s Caldwell-Pope who is expected to start in place of Bradley, the Lakers have emphasized a team approach to filling the void. In stressing that mindset, Danny Green also said he is looking forward to taking on more defensive challenges.
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