Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scores 20 points in regular-season debut with Lakers
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope watched the Lakers’ season opener from his home with his two young children until they fell asleep. He watched their second game in Phoenix, from the hotel. He traveled, but, suspended for two games, he wasn’t allowed to be at the arena with his team.
“It was kind of hard for me,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I wanted to be out there helping my teammates just playing along with them. They pulled out one for me. It just felt good to just be out there.”
Caldwell-Pope played in his first regular-season game with the Lakers on Sunday after serving a two-game suspension for a March arrest. He shot the ball well, making seven of 11 shots, including two of four three-pointers and finished with 20 points against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Late in the first quarter, he stole the ball from Darius Miller and raced down the court for a running, one-handed dunk.
Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year deal with the Lakers worth $18 million. The deal allowed him a lucrative contract and the ability to get back on the market after a year. He was a restricted free agent this past summer until the Detroit Pistons renounced their right to sign him.
Caldwell-Pope’s agent, Rich Paul, attended the game and sat between Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss and manager of special events Linda Rambis. Paul also represents Cleveland star LeBron James.
“He’s obviously new to the team but he’s really kind of bonded well with our guys,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “It hurt to lose him for those first two games. He really kind of started to get his legs under him and play the way we wanted him to play; obviously he’s one of our better shooters on the team and he’s been in the league a few years and knows personnel and is a great defender. He does a lot of things for us that we’re excited to have back.”
Gentry a fan of Ball
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has been around some great point guards in his career. The best was Steve Nash, whom he coached in Phoenix.
So his words about Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball carried some weight.
“I think he’s got an old soul and is mature beyond his age and years,” Gentry said. “He’s got great feel for the game. He’s the type of guy anyone would love playing with because he’s such an unselfish guy. Great things are going to happen with this kid.”
Gentry wasn’t bothered too much by Ball’s debut in which he scored only three points and made one of six shots. He noted that Ball wouldn’t face a much better defender than Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, whom he faced in the Lakers’ season opener.
“I’ve never seen the kid upset,” Gentry said. “Never seen him upset, never seen him celebrate or do any of these things. He’s a coach’s dream, I think. He just loves playing the game. I don’t see how he could possibly fail.”
Ball’s 26 assists through three games are the most ever by a teenager. James had 23 as a rookie and 22 in his second year. Kyrie Irving had 18. … Walton has said that second-year center Ivica Zubac was the victim of a numbers game in being inactive for the Lakers’ first two games because the Lakers needed an extra guard with Caldwell-Pope active but unable to play. On Sunday, Zubac was active for the first time this season, but he did not play. … Luol Deng was inactive again for the second consecutive game. Deng started for the Lakers in their season opener.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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