When the Los Angeles Lakers decided to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2019 NBA free agency, many fans weren’t excited about the move.
In his first two seasons with the team, Caldwell-Pope had good moments but was inconsistent and streaky overall. His slow start to the 2019-20 NBA season didn’t do him any favors in endearing himself to the Lakers faithful.
Things got so bad at one point that some of Caldwell-Pope’s Lakers teammates came to his defense on social media, showing the chemistry and camaraderie that this team has. Eventually, he began to turn things around and now, Caldwell-Pope has arguably been the team’s most consistent guard over the past couple of months.
One thing that helped Caldwell-Pope immensely was the belief that head coach Frank Vogel had in him from the beginning. Caldwell-Pope recently spoke to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN about how his head coach helped him through his early slump:
“To know through my struggles ‘My coach still believes in me’ does a lot for your mindset,” Caldwell-Pope says. “Now I’m not thinking about that. I can go get my work in and start producing.”
For a team like the Lakers with so many guards vying for minutes, it can be easy for a player to be looking over his shoulder, especially when he is struggling. For Caldwell-Pope to not have to worry about that allows him to focus on just going out and playing his game.
Vogel would explain that the main thing that allowed his confidence to never waver was Caldwell-Pope’s constant energy on the floor:
“My belief started in how hard [Caldwell-Pope] plays,” Vogel says. “When you compete that hard and you’re contributing to winning, whether you’re making shots or not, you’ve earned that belief.”
Caldwell-Pope has more than gotten over those early-season struggles. He is averaging 9.5 points while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range, both career-high numbers. He has been the team’s most reliable long-range shooter while still providing solid perimeter defense.
One of the toughest things for a new head coach to do is to gain the trust and respect of his team and Vogel has done that with this team.
It can be easy to look elsewhere when a role player is struggling, but Vogel stuck with his guns and now is reaping the benefits of it. There are still questions lingering as to who the Lakers could potentially sign in the buyout market, but Caldwell-Pope’s play has ensured that he’ll remain a big part of Vogel’s rotation regardless.