The unceremonious ending to the Los Angeles Lakers playoff run was perfectly emblematic of the 2020-21 season as a whole. The Lakers lost in Game 6 to the Phoenix Suns with Anthony Davis missing a majority of the game, Alex Caruso being ruled out early, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing through an injury.
The entire year, the hits never seemed to stop. Just as the Lakers felt like they were getting a rhythm, someone would have to miss time with an injury or in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. A snake-bitten season ended as mercifully as it could have, with the Lakers not having to play any more games after the first round.
Caldwell-Pope discussed how he felt in Game 6 and the challenge of always having players out with injury. “I felt good out there. Was going through some pain in my leg, just trying to fight through it the whole time, not trying to worry about it as much and I feel like we fought hard.
“It was tough,” Caldwell-Pope said of 2020-21. “We had injuries throughout the season, guys missing 15-20 games out of the rotation and then trying to throw them back in the rotation kind of like I don’t want to say messed up the chemistry as much but it’s learning on the go and when that does happen, that set us back some time. Then injuries in the postseason, which hurt us a lot. We needed AD’s presence, his scoring, his defensive side of the ball. Me, my knee, I couldn’t really be 100% out there fighting through that pain. And also AC, he ended up getting hurt. So I mean a lot of injuries kind of kept us two steps behind and we couldn’t really just get it together, we couldn’t put it together as far as injuries and then just guys missing rotations.”
The Lakers guard said that much of the difficulties stemmed from the impossibly short offseason between the 2020 championship and the 2020-21 season. “No, we didn’t have time to separate it. The season was right up on us after we won a championship last year. We had 18, 20 days or something to prepare for the next season.
“I feel like that also caught up to us in the postseason but we didn’t have time to separate the two seasons. Like I said, we was learning on the go, less practice, more film and we was just getting the best we could.”
Even still, Caldwell-Pope believes that a fully healthy Lakers team could have competed for a championship. “I feel like if we were healthy, 100% healthy, I feel like we would’ve won this year. The guys we added in Trezz, Dennis, Marc, them big keys guys as well that are a part of this organization and them guys bring a different type of game to the organization. I feel like we could’ve won it this year if we was 100% healthy.”
Sadly, we’ll never know the full potential of the group that Rob Pelinka put together in the shortened offseason. It’s likely that some significant changes will be made before next year given the sheer number of free agents on the roster.
Hopefully, Caldwell-Pope can stick around and try to run it back with the Lakers, who can go into next season with the motivation of showing everyone what they can do when healthy.
Caldwell-Pope gives a positive spin on Lakers season
When asked to give one positive aspect on the Lakers’ early exit, Caldwell-Pope turned to the toughness of the roster.
“No matter what, we never gave up. We fought through adversity, whatever it was, injuries, or just losing a couple games in a row. I feel like we laid it all out this season. No matter the timetable that we had to recovery I feel like we left it all out and gave it our best.”
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