Keeping it Simple

Cheeks gives KCP a blueprint: Play like Kyle Singler

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scoring 17 points in a half against Washington gives the Pistons a glimpse of their future. For their present, they’re asking that he emulates Kyle Singler.

“I’m not looking at his scoring, but I look at the way he plays defense, running the floor,” Mo Cheeks said after the Pistons practiced on day four of their rare five-day break between games Friday. “I told him to take a cue out of Kyle’s book. We don’t run a lot of plays for Kyle, either, but he ends up getting a three here, a three there, he gets some open runs to the rim for baskets. Those kind of guys just have to do things like that.”

Caldwell-Pope began the season safely inside the playing rotation because both Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey missed virtually the entire preseason with injuries. Once they returned, Caldwell-Pope was the No. 5 guard in a rotation Cheeks says has room for only four. He didn’t get off the bench in two early November games, but when Chauncey Billups couldn’t go on Nov. 15 in Sacramento with left knee tendinitis that would cost him nearly a month, the 2013 first-rounder went into the starting lineup so Cheeks could continue to bring Rodney Stuckey off the bench as the second unit’s featured scorer.

The Pistons have crammed 33 games into two months, and the 20-year-old Caldwell-Pope admits – grudgingly – to a difficult adjustment.

“It’s difficult because right now we’ve played 33 games – that’s a college season,” he said. “I acknowledge that I’ve hit a wall, but I love playing basketball, so I’m going to play until I die. It’s just something I love to do. If I hit the wall, I’m just going to have to calm down and get myself focused and keep going.”

Cheeks wants to see Caldwell-Pope get his hands on more loose balls and learn to take charges. He played 40 minutes over two games last weekend in Orlando and Washington and totaled one rebound and no assists.

“We’re asking a lot of him to be able to defend certain twos in the league,” Cheeks said. “There’s some high-level twos. For him to be able to do it night in, night out, that’s a tough task for him. But I think he’s capable of doing it. Hopefully, he’s just going to keep getting better at it. But there is such a thing as a guy hitting the way. It has some merit to it.”

Cheeks said after the losses to Orlando and Washington that if he were to make a lineup change, it would come during the five-day break. He said Friday that he’s not considering any moves “at this moment.”

Caldwell-Pope probably put off such a decision with his 17-point outburst against Washington, showing off his shooting stroke and his speed while matched up against an old AAU rival, Washington’s Bradley Beal. He called it a confidence booster.

“Now I just have to come out and be aggressive,” he said. “Before every game, Stuckey always tells me, ‘Just be aggressive.’ That’s kind of stuck in my head. Be aggressive, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Caldwell-Pope’s adjustment to the NBA goes beyond the pace of the schedule. This is the first time in his life he’s playing in an offense that isn’t at least partially built around his scoring opportunities.

“That is kind of hard and kind of new,” he said. “I try to get myself going. I try to run the floor, get easy layups and knock down a jump shot when I’m open. Just being active on the court, letting ’em know you’re out there. Don’t just be in the shadows. Try to get some steals, rebounds, score the ball – just be active.”

It’s a pretty simple plan. It’s the Singler Plan.