Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t always seemed to put in production commensurate with his one-year, $18-million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but he certainly looked the part in the team’s win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday
Caldwell-Pope was spewing flames in the victory, hitting a eight 3-pointers and scoring a season-high 34 points as he helped carry his young teammates to their second-straight victory since the All-Star break.
And while that type of production was never what the Lakers were expecting or asking for when they signed Caldwell-Pope to his gargantuan one-year deal last summer, they were also anticipating more than they got from him earlier in the season.
But his season was thrown off as he struggled with issues ranging from injury to incarceration. With both of those behind him, Caldwell-Pope has been free to build a routine, which Lakers head coach Luke Walton theorized is responsible for his recent success, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
“Give him credit, he has done a really nice job of putting in extra work too,” Walton added. “We are such a better team when he is feeling confident and that shot is going for him. … Unfortunately, what he has gone through, whether the injury or legal stuff, it wasn’t always him being able to get that work in. Now that he is coming back from this injury, he is getting there and getting shots in every day before practice and getting into a really nice rhythm of playing basketball.”
Professional athletes are obviously expected by fans to perform their best no matter what is going on in their lives.
But human elements like injury and stress related to something like legal issues are also naturally going to affect any human being, even finely-tuned athletes like Caldwell-Pope. Routines, on the other hand, can help everyone.
If Caldwell-Pope’s newfound freedom and health are allowing him to put in extra work consistently in ways he wasn’t before, it’s hardly surprising he’s playing better.
Whether or not he can continue the roll he’s on for the Lakers’ remaining 23 games will in large part determine whether or not the team makes any noise down the stretch of the season or debates bringing him back next year.
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