Kentavious Caldwell-Pope perfect wingman for Lakers, LeBron James

Georgia native shooting 57 percent from beyond the arc, No. 3 in NBA
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Sharpshooter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope perfect wingman for LeBron James

LeBron James pounded the ball in frustration during the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ disappointing loss earlier this week at home against the Golden State Warriors

James was called for travelling late in the shot clock after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope passed on an open 3-pointer in the corner. Caldwell-Pope only took three shots in that game, finishing with a season-low three points.

“He knows what he’s out on the floor for us,” James said. “And that’s to spread the floor, to give us a lot of energy and to defend. And we want KCP to shoot it when he’s open, and when he’s guarded closely we want him to still shoot it because when he shoots the ball, he’s so good for our ballclub.

“He gives us another dynamic that just gives everyone energy. And we love when he’s taking and making shots, but we love when he’s just aggressive and being himself.”

Fast forward to L.A.’s first game of a seven-game road swing against the Milwaukee Bucks, and Caldwell-Pope certainly learned from that mistake. He finished 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, scoring a season-high 23 points in a nice road win over Milwaukee.

The Lakers (12-4) move to the second game of the road trip, taking on the Zach LaVine-led Chicago Bulls (7-8) at the United Center at 6 p.m. local time.

For the season, Caldwell-Pope has made 29-of-51 from the 3-point line this season. His 56.9 percent from beyond the arc is No. 3 in the NBA, a spot behind teammate Alex Caruso (57.1 percent, 16-of-28 from 3-point-line).

The Georgia native stepped up his game in the postseason last year, averaging 11 points and two rebounds, along with shooting 38 percent from 3-point range.

And Caldwell-Pope was dialed in even more in the last three games of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, averaging 16 points a contest and shooting 45 percent from the field, making eight 3-pointers in those final three games.

But through 16 games, Caldwell-Pope is shooting it even better this year. So, what’s been the difference?

“I already known when they (James or Anthony Davis) got the ball in the post or on the wing in pick and rolls, I know where to find my spot,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I’m still learning some of the other guys when they get in the post like Marc (Gasol) and Trez (Montrezl Harrell), but it’s just all about finding the open spot so they can be able to see me, if they need to pass it out.”

Just like Caldwell-Pope, as a team the Lakers are shooting much better from beyond the arc. L.A.’s No. 3 in the NBA, shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line.

James is shooting 40 percent from three and averaging a career-high 6.6 three-pointers a contest.

“I just think it’s part of chemistry, knowing your teammates and knowing where your teammates are going to be on the floor,” James said, when asked about his team’s proficiency from beyond the arc. “And that comes with games played. That comes with minutes on the floor, film sessions and things of that nature.

“When you start getting comfortable with your teammates, you know where guys are going to be, and you know where shots are going to be taken from.”

Caldwell-Pope said it’s about getting guys like James, Davis and Dennis Schröder getting the ball inside, forcing the defense to collapse and opening up space for shooters on the perimeter.

“Every time we touch that paint, things open up for us for our kick-out threes,” Caldwell-Pope said. “And then when we offensive rebound it’s a big thing Frank (Vogel) always preaches … We kick it out for threes because that’s when they’re mostly open. But it’s all about touching that paint, drawing defenses in, kicking it out and making the extra pass.”