Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knows he must perform well

Lakers Kentavious Caldwell Pope knows he must perform well
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The dual role Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finds himself in again for the Lakers during the playoffs remains magnified because his play is vital to the team’s success.

The Lakers need Caldwell-Pope to shoot three-pointers with confidence in the first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. They need Caldwell-Pope to play determined defense on Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker.

With Game 2 on Tuesday in the best-of-seven series the Lakers trail 1-0, Caldwell-Pope knows how significant his role is.

“My play is very much needed,” he said in a videoconference Monday after practice. “Starts by having energy on the defensive end, where I need to start, ‘cause that’s a tough matchup, tough series with Devin Booker. He can score and he’s been doing it in all type of ways. So, just trying to have my focus more on the defensive end and when I’m open, shoot the ball, knock down shots — what I’ve been doing my whole career.

“Been in the organization four years. That’s been my job — three-and-D. So, I take that very serious, so it’s gonna be tough. But I lean my hat on my defense, so it’s gonna be good.”

Game 1 was not good for the Lakers or Caldwell-Pope, who made only two of nine shots from the field and one of seven from three-point range.

Caldwell-Pope was not alone in failing to contain Booker, who had 34 points on 13-for-26 shooting.

“I feel like we did a great job on Book. He just made a lot of tough, contested twos,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I don’t think he had an easy shot besides like one three he had at the top of the key, that I remember. But we made it tough for him. He had to take tough twos, and he’s a great player, All-Star. He’s gonna knock down them, some of them shots. But we’ve just gotta be more physical, I feel like. We wasn’t physical enough with him. We’ve gotta be able to just get stops when we need them and not give him a rhythm. Just try to take him out of his game as much as possible.”

Paul ‘progressing’

Chris Paul was “progressing in a good way” during the Suns’ light practice in preparation for Game 2 despite still being sore from suffering a bruised right shoulder Sunday, coach Monty Williams said.

Williams said he’ll talk to Paul and the medical staff to make sure they have the right plan for the All-Star guard to play Tuesday.

“If he’s able to play, he’s going to play,” Williams said. “If we feel like we’re putting him in harm’s way by playing, then he won’t play. But that’s how we would treat any one of our guys.”

Lakers-Suns schedule for first-round playoff series.

(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Williams said he didn’t want to “forecast” on what would happen if Paul were not 100% healthy.

“He was out there dribbling just now and going through his normal progressions,” Williams said. “So, we feel like he’s in a good place even though he’s sore.”

Lakers meet vaccine threshold

The Lakers reached the 85% vaccinated threshold as a team Monday, and that has allowed them to enjoy relaxed COVID-19 protocols.

Coach Frank Vogel said after practice that he would “huddle up” with his staff to see what they might do and that the players who have been vaccinated could have a team dinner.

The NBA and NBPA agreed to protocols for vaccinated individuals that included no quarantine for exposure, no PCR tests during off days, and the ability to interact with other people at home, go to outdoor restaurants and have four guests on the road without previous testing.

“Hopefully, they’ll be getting together,” Vogel said about his players. “And in terms of what I do with my staff, that’s to be determined.”

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