Pistons' Caldwell-Pope pushes to keep improving

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — After making strides between his first and second seasons, Pistons shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knew he needed to make a bigger jump heading into Year 3.

He increased his scoring from 5.9 to 12.7 points and his 3-point shooting to 35 percent, but still needed to be more consistent.

So, during summer workouts with Dion Glover, an assistant with the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA D-League, he had specific areas to target — ball-handling and strength.

Through the first week of training camp, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has seen that work pay off, identifying Caldwell-Pope as one of the standouts the first few days of workouts.

"He's made shots at a high rate, he's not turned the ball over and defensively he's been really good," Van Gundy said ahead of Tuesday night's exhibition opener against the Pacers. "He's in fabulous shape, he's always had a really good motor and he's just getting better. He understands the game better. He's not playing too fast — which he's had a tendency to do. It seems like he's maturing."

That's high praise, but Van Gundy also suggested rookie Stanley Johnson could be an option at shooting guard, which raised the antennae for Caldwell-Pope his starting job might be in jeopardy if he didn't make some changes.

"It really just motivated me," Caldwell-Pope said. "Each and every year, my spot (is challenged) and I have to think about the next person coming in trying to take my job."

His offseason regimen included morning workouts and two-a-days, as well as weight training focused on his legs to make him quicker and more explosive.

"I really worked hard on what I needed to work hard on to stay consistent and continue to get stronger," he said. "That built my confidence and that carried over into (camp), and now carrying over into the season."

He's maintained the shooting touch through the first week of camp, shooting 60 percent, according to Van Gundy.

Nicked up

Guards Reggie Jackson (Achilles soreness) and Steve Blake (concussion), forward Adonis Thomas (Achilles soreness) and center Aron Baynes (ankle) probably will miss Tuesday night's exhibition.

Spencer Dinwiddie is the only healthy point guard, but Jodie Meeks and rookies Darrun Hilliard and Johnson could see some time as backups.

"I want to play really hard and I want to see us make improvement defensively," Van Gundy said. "I don't care who we have — I would expect that we would compete and that we would do a better job defensively than we did (in last Saturday's scrimmage)."

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

Pacers at Pistons

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, The Palace, Auburn Hills

Radio: WMGC

Outlook: PG Reggie Jackson (Achilles soreness) likely will miss the exhinition opener. ... Fs Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova and rookie F Stanley Johnson and rookie SG/SF Darrun Hilliard make their debut.