Caldwell-Pope shooting blanks, but Pistons aren't worried

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Auburn Hills – It was a positive sign when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope appeared to snap out of his preseason shooting slump.

After struggling in the first four exhibitions, Caldwell-Pope poured in 39 points on 44.4 percent shooting over the final two contests.
But it hasn’t carried over to the regular season. Entering Sunday’s game against the Bucks, Caldwell-Pope was averaging 4.5 points on 28.6 percent shooting, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

He was the lone starter shooting under 45 percent and didn’t eclipsed double figures in scoring until recording a team-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 2-for-5 from beyond the arc, in the 98-83 win over the Bucks.

Regardless, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t too concerned about Caldwell-Pope’s offensive production.

"It is difficult because he's not a guy that we call a ton of plays for,” Van Gundy said prior to the game. “We try to give him some but generally how many good looks he's getting is a fairly good barometer of our ball movement.

“I don't know that KCP has gotten a lot of good looks. I think he's had a little bit of frustration because of that. I'm not sure he's taking great shots himself all the time, so hopefully as our offense improves and our ball movement gets better, he gets higher quality shots and then his percentage goes up."

Van Gundy said they’ve ran a play for Caldwell-Pope to start the first two games and he scored both times. But with the majority of the offense operating through pick-and-rolls, forwards Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris have been the main go-to guys.

Van Gundy added there are plays that can be run to help improve Caldwell-Pope’s shot selection, but his value goes beyond how much he scores.

"KCP helps us wins games, so would I like him to shoot the ball better? Yes, so would he but I'm not sitting around worrying about that,” Van Gundy said. “I don't think that's a real issue with our team. He's going to make shots as the year goes on, but he's the guy who leads our defense.

“He's our most consistently high-energy player. We need him on the floor and, to me, shots going in for him are just a bonus."

Point guard play

With Reggie Jackson sidelined for the first 15-20 regular-season games, the hope was to just survive.

Instead, Ish Smith and Beno Udrih have thrived in Jackson’s absence. The two journeymen have combined for 57 points, 35 assists and 11 turnovers through three games.

"We know the things we need to do well consistently and taking care of the ball is a big one and they've done a great job of that,” Van Gundy said. “I think they've kept us very organized. They've made plays off the pick-and-rolls, they've put the ball in the basket when they've had their opportunities.”

On the rebound

With the exception of Andre Drummond, Jon Leuer and Morris, Van Gundy hasn’t been too pleased with his team’s rebounding, particularly at the guard position.

Smith, Udrih and Caldwell-Pope have combined for 18 boards. One reason for the low output is the assumption Drummond is going to corral every rebound, a similar scenario Van Gundy experienced when he coached the Dwight Howard-led Magic.

"We have so much trust I think that people can get a little bit lazy on their own rebounding because they know (Drummond’s) going to gobble it up,” Van Gundy said. “Your totals aren't going to look great but there's still rebounds that you've got to have that we're not getting. Leaking out is one of our problems and long rebounds have hurt us because guys aren't coming back the way they should."

Slam dunks

Van Gundy said forward Reggie Bullock (back spasms) participated in the team’s walkthrough and is feeling fine but was out Sunday. Bullock has missed all three games and hasn’t played since the Pistons’ exhibition win over the Bucks on Oct. 17.

“We'll try to get a full practice in (Monday) and see where he's at heading into Tuesday,” Van Gundy said. “We want to see him in a live situation."

… The Pistons’ D-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, selected former Michigan State standout Shannon Brown with the 41st pick in Sunday’s draft.