After sitting out a game and watching his team defeat the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, Los Angeles Lakers swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said his ankle feels better and he’s optimistic that he can take the floor Tuesday.
“My ankle is feeling great,” Caldwell-Pope told reporters via video conference call. “I practiced today (Monday), got a little movement in. I’m still not 100 percent, but hopefully I’ll be able to go tomorrow. It depends on how I feel.”
Caldwell-Pope suffered a mild left ankle sprain on a cut to the basket early in the second half in a win over the San Antonio Spurs last week. He had to be carried to the locker room by his teammates, where he received an X-ray that confirmed a mild ankle sprain. Caldwell-Pope did not return to the game.
Kyle Kuzma started in place of Caldwell-Pope in the first road contest against Memphis on Sunday, finishing with 11 points and three rebounds in 30 minutes of work. The Lakers face the Grizzlies for the second game of a back-to-back at the FedEx Forum on Tuesday.
Caldwell-Pope said he’ll balance showing toughness and playing through some discomfort with his balky ankle versus knowing the Lakers have enough talented depth that he can wait until he’s fully healthy to return to the court.
“I feel like our bench is deep enough for me to take my time coming back,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I know we’re also missing AC (Alex Caruso), which he’ll be back pretty soon. And we’ve just got a group of guys that, we made this concept last year, that next-man-up mentality. And we still have that mentality here.”
As one of the veteran players on the roster, Caldwell-Pope is serving as a mentor for younger players during his absence from the starting lineup, pointing out to young players like Talen Horton-Tucker some of the nuances of the team’s concepts on offense and defense.
“Mostly Talen, because he’s the youngest out there getting minutes,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So just trying to put him in the right position, especially on defense. We already know what he can do on the offensive end. So, I’m just trying keep him right on the defensive end.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said Caldwell-Pope lending his voice as leader has been helpful to the team.
“In the second year of our system, I think he’s more comfortable, and more comfortable in his role,” Vogel said. “And when you get more comfortable in a system and in a role, you’re more confident to step up in leadership situations and help someone like Talen with some coverages, or things like that.
“KCP drew the biggest assignment defensively on a championship run. He’s got a pretty strong pedigree there. So, to see him share some of his knowledge to some of the young guys is a good sign.”