The Los Angeles Lakers have been going through months of never-ending adjustments due to injuries to the team’s All-Stars, which required role players to step up in their absence. And while Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell have been thriving in an increased role, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s display has been erratic at best.
The 28-year-old guard started the season shooting over 50% from behind the 3-point line, but his efficiency from downtown has dropped to 35.3% since Anthony Davis suffered his calf injury on Feb. 14. Caldwell-Pope’s had a few nights when he looked like the prolific sharpshooter that helped L.A. win the NBA title tremendously last year. He scored 21 points against the Washington Wizards, shooting 4-for-8 from downtown, in late February and dropped 19 points, sinking three 3-pointers (60%), against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 25.
And in the 115-94 win over the Sacramento Kings, Caldwell-Pope shone again ending the night with 13 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 4-for-7 from deep. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained the guard’s revitalized display resulted from a conversation in which they clarified his role in the absence of Davis and James.
“KCP has been struggling and I want to take some blame for that,” he said. “Because when AD and Bron go out, KCP’s role with those guys is to defend and to hustle and to run the floor and knock down open shots when they come, and sometimes he gets a lot of them, and sometimes he doesn’t and that’s okay, but just to play through that.
“With those guys out, I haven’t talked to KCP about this, and like I said this is where I take blame, but I talked to him pregame tonight and said that we need him to play more of a scoring role with those guys out. I want him to be more aggressive both in catch-and-shoot, attacking off the bounce, midrange pull-ups. Whatever he needs to do to give us more offensively. He responded in a big-time way.”
Caldwell-Pope didn’t want to lay all the blame for the misunderstanding on Vogel. The guard said he should have taken more responsibility on offense without waiting for the coach’s orders. “I can just put that on myself as well because I should have known to be aggressive, shoot the ball, try to get more attempts up, and just be out there playing hard,” he said.
Caldwell-Pope added Vogel asked him to play on offense with the same tenacity as he does on the defensive end. “And tonight, I just took that and added it to the game,” Caldwell-Pope said of his performance against Sacramento.
Vogel opens up on Lakers’ mentality amid injury crisis
It took Andre Drummond just 14 minutes of his debut game for L.A. to join Davis and James on the injury list. The center lost the nail on his big toe in the Wednesday loss to the Milwaukee Bucks becoming one of the many Lakers players who have been hurt this season.
But Vogel says his players hold their heads high despite the team’s misfortunes as they await the return of its stars. “We’re about the guys in uniform,” he said. “We know we have enough, we have a deep team. We’ve been playing really good basketball, getting better each game during this stretch. We’re confident that we can win.”
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