Times-Call (Longmont)

KCP a missing piece to title push

Malone believes his addition key to Nuggets’ hopes

- By Mike Singer msinger@denverpost.com

If Kentavious Caldwell-pope had any extra juice Wednesday night, the Mavericks can thank the NBA for snubbing the Nuggets’ leading marksman in this weekend’s 3-point contest.

Despite being the top shooter (45%) on the top 3-point shooting team in the NBA, Caldwell-pope didn’t receive the invite he badly coveted. In Denver’s 118-109 win over Dallas, Caldwell-pope was phenomenal, on both ends of the floor. He finished with 14 points on 3-for-6 from the 3-point line, with five rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

As he was talking to a reporter in the postgame locker room, a teammate yelled, “You talking about how you got robbed?”

“I really tried to get out there and show them, it’s a lot of great shooters in this league, and if we’re going to put in the work to be the best, we should be at least rewarded or have an opportunit­y to showcase it,” Caldwell-pope said. “That didn’t happen. It’s all good. I’m gonna come back and bring home another trophy.”

Caldwell-pope said he thought he didn’t get the invite because of his lack of attempts (4.3 per game), but he felt he shouldn’t be punished for playing within an unselfish system. Ultimately, he settled on the idea that the Nuggets had bigger goals.

Ever since the Nuggets traded for Caldwell-pope this offseason, coach Michael Malone has raved about his profession­alism and his impact.

“We felt like he was the missing piece,” Malone said.

As a floor spacer and defender, Caldwell-pope has been everything the Nuggets could’ve dreamed of when they dealt Monte Morris and Will Barton to Washington.

“The reality is, honestly, KCP could get (the Defensive Player of the Game chain) every night,” Malone said. “No, really. We should actually name it the KCPDPOG and give it to everybody else.”

His swarming, physical defense has been critical for Denver, which has steadily risen from the 28th-ranked defense in the NBA to the 13th-ranked outfit. Within that, Caldwell-pope is more than game to handle an opponent’s biggest backcourt threat.

“This is how I start my game, how I stay focused on the defensive end,” he said. He emphasizes getting his hands in passing

lanes, swiping unsuspecti­ng dribblers, and ripping fifty-fifty balls like a cornerback.

On one Wednesday night, he intercepte­d an errant

pass from Reggie Bullock and beat Luka Doncic to the spot.

As badly as he wanted to showcase his shooting during All-star weekend, Caldwell-pope said he’d live with the alternativ­e.

“Cabo,” he said of his break. “It’s a surprise.

My wife is surprising me. Everything is already planned. I just gotta get on the flight.”

Malone did his best to lobby for his players through the media but ultimately, it will just be Denver’s coaching staff and two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic representi­ng

the Nuggets in Salt

Lake City.

“I just wish KCP was coming to Salt Lake City,” Malone said. “I wish Aaron Gordon was coming to Salt Lake City. I wish Jamal Murray was coming to Salt Lake City. And I wish I wasn’t going to Salt Lake City.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States