Second verse same as the first: KCP shines again
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)
ORLANDO – If you wondered how his one-game star turn in the Summer League opener would affect Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s mindset, you weren’t alone.
“You always wonder a little bit about that,” Pistons Summer League coach Bob Beyer said. “I thought he played really, really well yesterday. Our expectations are for him to play well every night and he did again tonight.”
Caldwell-Pope followed up his 26-point, six-steal Saturday with a 30-point, 12-rebound Sunday as the Pistons went to 2-0 with an 85-82 win over Memphis. Any nagging doubt that he’d come out fat and sassy or passive after dominating in the opener evaporated on the game’s first possession when he hit two triples, missing the free throw after being fouled on the first try before chasing down the loose ball and draining a second three.
“That helped,” he said. “That got me going and I was on for the whole night. I wanted to stay aggressive and continue to make plays for me and my team.”
Caldwell-Pope hit 4 of 8 triples but also continued to take the ball to the basket aggressively without veering into uncontrolled play. He’s shot 16 free throws over two games, making 14. And he hasn’t allowed shouldering the offensive burden to diminish his defensive intensity, either.
“He was matched up right at the beginning of the game against (Memphis No. 1 pick) Jordan Adams, who had a great game yesterday shooting the ball,” Beyer said. “He took the challenge on defensively as well and the one thing I really like about KCP is just his overall spirit and competitiveness. And it showed again tonight.”
“I feed off my defenses,” Caldwell-Pope said. “It gets me going. Once my defense is going, I know my offense is going to come, so I just continue to work hard on the defensive end.”
The script really wasn’t much different all the way around for the Pistons on day two. Peyton Siva again won best supporting actor with another superb floor game. Siva scored 12 points, dished out seven assists against two turnovers and pitched in with five rebounds. Siva’s value was underscored for the 12 often stagnant minutes offensively the Pistons experienced when he sat.
With Memphis playing physical defense and focused on jamming the Pistons’ half-court offense, the coaching staff at halftime decided to counter with a heavy dose of high pick-and-roll sets that put the ball – and the onus of decision-making – in Siva’s hands. He was brilliant in making the right call and often set up teammates Tony Mitchell, Justin Harper, Brian Cook and others for layups or open jump shots.
“Peyton’s a great point guard,” Caldwell-Pope said. “That’s what he’s supposed to do – he’s supposed to run the floor, call plays and get us in the right position and that’s what he’s been doing for the last two days.”
“The best thing was to put Peyton in high pick and rolls and he did a good job of making reads and setting some guys up for easy baskets,” Beyer said.
Among the free agents hoping to land an invitation to training camp or, perhaps, even a contract offer, the standout over the first two days has been DeAndre Liggins, the reigning D-League Defensive Player of the Year who combines with Caldwell-Pope to give the Pistons two tenacious, athletic wing defenders.
Liggins has seven steals in two games and Sunday scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out four assists. He made Van Gundy’s Orlando team after being a late second-round pick in 2011 out of Kentucky.
“I was with Stan my rookie year and we’ve got a relationship,” he said. “That’s part of why I’m here and the other part is my ability to play defense. I’m not only playing for Detroit; I’m playing for the other 29 teams and just trying to play to the best of my abilities, to make solid plays and do the things I’m capable of.”
He thinks his time in the D-League, where he got to handle the ball and improved in areas beyond his defense, makes him a more attractive candidate to fill a spot on someone’s NBA bench. But as a defensive stopper, he can appreciate what he’s seen from Caldwell-Pope over the first two Summer League games.
“Kentavious is making a lot of shots,” he said. “He’s very energetic. That’s something people don’t look at because he’s making shots. He’s very energetic, he plays defense and I like him a lot. He’s a good teammate.”
A good teammate who’s making a case to be a more important teammate than Stan Van Gundy might have imagined even a week ago.