ORLANDO - Pistons assistant coach Maz Trakh has told Kentavious Caldwell-Pope the same thing before each of the team’s Orlando Summer League games this week.
“Before every game I said, ‘You know what I want you to do?’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, shoot,’” Trakh said. "He’s got that question down, so I give him an A for the answer there."
And that’s exactly what Caldwell-Pope did in his first two games in Orlando. Problem was, he was shooting and missing, a lot.
“That’s what he does," Trakh said. "When guys are coming into their first summer league, there’s a little pressure because they want to show that where they were picked in the draft they deserved.”
Granted, a first-year player is going to face some pressure in his first summer league — Trakh noted that — but once Tuesday rolled around, Caldwell-Pope’s shoot-shoot-and-shoot-some-more mentality started to result in some success.
“Just keep shooting the ball, it’s a confidence thing,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my shooting abilities, so I just came out aggressive — keep shooting it. I’ll eventually knock down one, so just keep shooting the ball and eventually it’ll go in.”
That’s the mentality he needs in his position. The Pistons didn’t draft him for his playmaking ability. They drafted him to shoot and score from the perimeter, something the team sorely lacked last season.
He scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the third quarter, coming off a 3-pointer, a thunderous breakaway dunk and a slick and-1 where he curled from the baseline to the free throw line to hit the jumper with contact.
Heck, at that point, he was yelling for the ball next time down.
“The first two games I played, I really didn’t shoot the ball that well, but I played well,” Caldwell-Pope said. “This game, just coming in and shooting the ball well, and also playing both ends, was good.”
While Caldwell-Pope’s offense was the big story for the Pistons, his defensive potential showed in doses, too. Though Reggie Jackson made anyone guarding him look bad, Caldwell-Pope finished the game with a steal and six boards.
Like any player — rookie or vet — seeing the ball go in the basket is a confidence builder.
“It helps a lot,” Caldwell-Pope said. “When I know my offensive game comes, I know my defense is going to be there. So, I’m just (trying) to get my hands on balls."
The rookie admitted that he was nervous in the first two contests, but it didn’t appear that way against Oklahoma City.
He’s confident in his abilities, and that’s good. It would have been interesting to see him on Jackson late in the game or even matched up with the Thunder’s other summer league juggernaut, Jeremy Lamb, who didn’t played Tuesday.
Regardless, Caldwell-Pope is confident, and he knows why the Pistons drafted him No. 8 overall.
Most of us do, and Trakh isn’t afraid to remind him to just “shoot,” either.