The Los Angeles Lakers made a huge addition to the team when they signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal this offseason. Luke Walton and the front office loved his defensive ability and shooting while believing he could be a leader for this young team.
So far the returns have been mixed as far as on-court production. While his defense has been as advertised, Caldwell-Pope is shooting only 38 percent from the field and just 30.4 percent from three-point range.
Despite that, Walton is happy with what Caldwell-Pope has brought to the Lakers, telling Rod Beard of The Detroit News that his practice habits are rubbing off on the young players:
“He’s been great for us. A big part of our defense is what he’s brought and we’re making some strides in that. He practices hard, has great habits and is an aggressive defender,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He likes to get up into the ball and when you’re playing with so many young players, when they get to see him do it every day, they learn better and quicker from that.”
Caldwell-Pope himself admits that he has to be more vocal than he is used to, but knowing the young players are looking towards him inspires him as a leader:
“I can’t be as quiet as I was; I have to be more vocal and just stay in their ear. I have a lot of young fellas over here and I have to try to be that leader,” Caldwell-Pope said. “They look at me as their vet — and I’m only 24. Looking up to me inspires me to be that leader.”
Caldwell-Pope’s presence is already being felt on this young team as they have definitely turned more of a focus on the defensive end. The Lakers are currently ninth in the NBA in defensive rating.
He is struggling on offense right now, but that is the case for the Lakers as a whole. He is still bringing more than enough to the Lakers to make Walton happy and he will look to continue that moving forward.
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