If one man on the Detroit Pistons summer league team had something to prove it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and he has certainly answered the critic’s questions so far. KCP poured in 26 points (24 of which came after halftime) including the game-winning three-pointer in the Pistons 80-78 win over the Miami Heat Tuesday.
? 2009 Michael Tipton, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
KCP came in to the game as the Summer League’s highest scorer, and that won’t change after today’s performance. He has had his way with younger, less athletic defenders so far in summer league play, getting to the rim with ease, but has also shown the outside shooting he is known for. Caldwell-Pope certainly looks much more comfortable in his second summer league, and hopefully that will translate to more comfort in his second NBA season.
KCP got off to a slow start Tuesday as he struggled to find his rhythm. He opened the game with some outside shots that didn’t fall, and overall he couldn’t get into the flow of the game. Next, a hold your breath moment came in the form of Caldwell-Pope falling backwards on to the floor clutching his ankle. He had a typical NBA ankle roll, something that happens in many basketball games. He limped off and finished the first half with two points.
To the surprise of many KCP was right back out on the court to start the third quarter after getting some work done on the ankle by the trainer. This time Caldwell-Pope wasn’t settling, he routinely got to the hoop, or took two dribbles in to his pull-up jumper. The subtle change got KCP going, and once that started, everything was going in. The prettiest moment came in the third when KCP went right then came back through his legs into a step-back three-pointer that he nailed.
Even after a brilliant second half from KCP (And Ian Miller) the Pistons found themselves trailing by one with just over 10 seconds remaining. Everyone knew who was about to take the shot, but it didn’t matter. KCP inbounded the ball, got the return pass, took two dribbles and put up a three that was never in doubt. Shabazz Napier missed a shot for the Heat, and it was over the Pistons had won thanks to Caldwell-Pope’s huge second half.
So now we have seen what a confident KCP can do in summer league, and he will need to translate that to the regular season. Jodie Meeks was brought in on a pretty sizeable deal to play the same position as Caldwell-Pope, and that has definitely been a motivating factor. The Detroit Pistons may have just gone from needing all the help they can get on the wings, to having a crowded shooting guard spot. It’s far too early to tell but if Summer League is any indication the Pistons should be excited about their shooting guards for next season.
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