For a month it was miserable, a shooter who didn’t make shots drawing the ire of the Lakers’ home fans brick after brick.
But on Thursday night in the Lakers’ 113-106 win at Milwaukee, here was the same player, angry at himself for passing down shots earlier in the week, firing at every clean look, hitting seven of 10 attempts from three-point territory as he continued to cement himself as a perfect complement to the Lakers’ stars.
“It’s one of the more rewarding things in coaching,” Vogel said Thursday in a videoconference. “When you have a player that was basically not a fan favorite of Laker Nation to start the season last year, came out of the gates a little bit slow. But when you see a guy that plays as hard as he does, that brings value whether he’s making shots or missing shots, guys like that earn minutes. When they earn minutes, they get more comfortable shooting the basketball, and he really had a remarkable growth year last year and has taken it to another level this year.”
That level is elite — Caldwell-Pope is third in the NBA, hitting 56.9% of his tries from three-point range on more than four attempts per game. He’s playing like someone who knows exactly what his job is and who knows he’s the best man for the job.
“The confidence is from the work I’ve put in,” he said. “I know where my shots are going to come from, where I need to be to even get those shots, and just being in a great rhythm every game. Trying not to worry about missing shots, not even shooting the ball. … I know they’re going to come. Just being ready to shoot and staying in a good rhythm.”
The Lakers made 19 threes against Milwaukee and will try to continue their hot shooting at Chicago on Saturday night, when they have a chance to start the season 9-0 on the road.
A big part of the team’s hot start has been Caldwell-Pope, a rock-solid contributor since last postseason who has cemented himself as one of the Lakers’ starting five.
“He knows why he’s out on the floor for us. That’s to spread the floor, that’s to give us a lot of energy and to defend,” LeBron James said. “And we want KCP, when he’s open, we want him to shoot it. When he’s guarded closely, we want him to still shoot it.
“When he just shoots the ball, he’s just, he’s so good. I mean, he’s so good for our ballclub. He gives us another dynamic that just gives us energy. … And we love when he’s taking and making shots, but we love when he’s just aggressive, just being himself.
“That’s big time.”
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: The Lakers face the Bulls for the second time this season, Chicago almost upsetting them in Los Angeles this month. The Bulls are powered by Zach LaVine, who has blossomed into one of the NBA’s top shooting guards. In their last nine games, the Bulls are 5-4, with the losses coming by a combined 11 points.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.