The Pistons' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) puts up a shot over the Heat's Danilo Barthel during an NBA Summer League game Tuesday at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. (Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)
Orlando, Florida — The Kentavious Caldwell-Pope summer-league confidence tour made another stop in Orlando, this time in the form of a confident, downright cocky winner against the Miami Heat.
The last of Caldwell-Pope’s 26 points in the Pistons’ 80-78 win, came in a simple play he probably couldn’t have executed last season, particularly after he struggled in the first half, scoring two points and twisting his right ankle.
He inbounded a pass to DeAndre Liggins, immediately went back and got it before giving his defender a shoulder fake, taking a left-handed dribble and stepping into a 3-point shot with 6.6 seconds left.
“When we were in that huddle and I was diagramming, you could tell he wanted the ball,” Pistons summer-league coach Bob Beyer said. “He had other reads off it but he made a big-time play and big-time shot.”
Caldwell-Pope had no intentions on giving up the ball unless it was absolutely necessary, and he treated the extra defender as if he didn’t exist — again proving his point that he’s a much improved player compared to the skittish, inconsistent rookie who took the floor last season.
“He was struggling a little bit,” Beyer said. “You could sense he was pressing to score. In the second half he was relaxed, he calmed down and played a good job of playing within the offense.”
It was quite a change from the player who shot 1-for-7 in the first half and spent a considerable amount of time writhing in pain after taking a hard step on defense.
“The ankle’s fine,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I did turn it, but it felt good once I got out and worked on it a little bit.”
He could’ve chosen to sit the second half on his tender ankle. After all, there’s no need to risk anything health-wise by being a daredevil, and everything needs to be in working order come training camp in September.
“No, it wasn’t even a thought in my mind,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I knew I had a bad first half, so I wanted to come out and finish the game.”
Miller makes impression
Peyton Siva’s sore hamstring kept him out of play for the second half, allowing undrafted point guard Ian Miller to get some extended time. Miller hit contested shot after contested shot, scoring 16 and adding three assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
“The league is made of players like that to step up and keep the pace,” said Miller, who played at Florida State. “The coaches called my number and that’s what they needed me to do.”
He said there’s a place for aggressive, small guards like him, bringing up Spurs guard Patty Mills, who came off the bench to help the Spurs win the NBA title last month.
“My whole life I’ve been making hard shots, today I felt good,” Miller said. “I wanted to attack their bigs, from watching film. The shot was falling today. We sort of needed it.”
“The first game was a game to sit down and get an understanding of what we do. Now that I have that, I feel very confident and I want to give the team whatever we need.”
Report upsets Monroe
Stan Van Gundy said there’s no truth to the report about Greg Monroe requesting that Josh Smith be traded as a condition for him re-signing in Detroit. An Internet report surfaced last week, prompting Monroe to express incredulousness via his Twitter account, saying, “These false reports are even more funnier when you’re in the situation and u (know) the truth... I (just) laugh”
Van Gundy defended Monroe Tuesday.
“We’ve been in constant conversation with Greg and his agent,” Van Gundy said. “At no time did either express displeasure about Josh Smith or not wanting to play with Josh. Greg was very bothered by it and I understand it.”