Pistons’ KCP arrives late after birth of baby boy

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed the start of the Pistons’ game Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, getting to the bench in the second quarter.

Coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t upset, though, because Caldwell-Pope had a good reason: His wife, McKenzie, had delivered their baby.

Kentavious Jr. was born around 6:40 Wednesday evening — less than an hour before the game started — at 7 pounds. Both mother and son were healthy, and after spending more than 24 hours at the hospital awaiting the birth, Caldwell-Pope left soon after the birth to get to The Palace.

On Tuesday, Caldwell-Pope had informed the staff that doctors were planning to induce labor Wednesday, but the timing was unclear.

He texted with Van Gundy throughout the day to update him on the status, but it became clear that he wouldn’t be there for the start of the game. So Van Gundy started Reggie Bullock instead and left open the possibility for Caldwell-Pope to play.

“If you’re having a baby, there are some things that are more important than any game. I want our guys to understand that — we expect a lot of them out here,” Van Gundy said. “At the same time, we’re fully cognizant that there are things more important. Had he not been able to make it, then he doesn’t make it. What are you going to tell your son in 12 years — that I was at a game?

“You’ve got to be (at the hospital).”

When Caldwell-Pope arrived in the middle of the second quarter, his teammates and coaches met him with some quizzical looks, then handshakes and congratulations when they realized the baby was born.

“I’m happy for him — he’s got his baby boy,” point guard Ish Smith said. “I was surprised to see him, but it shows what type of teammate he is. But we’re really, really happy for him.”

Van Gundy decided not to play Caldwell-Pope in the first half in order to give him time to get warmed up for the third quarter, which he started. Caldwell-Pope finished with two points, on 1-for-5 shooting, in 17 minutes.

Van Gundy realized Caldwell-Pope was in a difficult situation with such a whirlwind day, but he said that also reflects on his character, to want to be there for his team.

“I put him in a tough situation but the guy rushing to get there shows you that he cared,” he said. “It would have been tough for me not to play him, but in reality, it would have been almost impossible for him to go into that game and play well — not because your mind’s been elsewhere, as it should be, with the birth of your son — but they had been at the hospital for well over 24 hours. He probably was going on no sleep whatsoever.”

Caldwell-Pope will make the two-game road trip to Houston and Memphis with the team this weekend before returning home late Sunday. It’s more time away, but with the season dwindling to the final games this week, he’ll have more time in the coming weeks to try to make up for it.

“His mom and McKenzie’s mom are in town so I’m not sure he’d even get a chance to hold the baby anyway,” Van Gundy joked. “I remember those days … hey, remember (the father) over here?

“I’m sure he’ll be very anxious to get back home. It’s an exciting time.”

Pistons at Rockets

Tipoff: 8 Friday, Toyota Center, Houston

TV/radio: FSD/105.1

Outlook: The Rockets (53-25) are locked into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, with their surge fueled by MVP candidate James Harden (29.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists). ... The Pistons (35-43) almost are eliminated from the postseason, could start looking at younger players, getting ready for next season.