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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope expected to start Pistons' regular-season opener

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The second-year guard returned to practice Sunday — and barring an unexpected setback over the next few days, will likely start when the Detroit Pistons open their season against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

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Exactly two weeks after straining his left knee in a preseason game in Washington, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been cleared for game action — just in time for the regular season. KCP's status for the opener was still in doubt after he was limited in Saturday's practice, but he showed enough Sunday for Stan Van Gundy to predict he'll be available.

"We'll go Tuesday, we'll see. Right now it looks like he'll play," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said, according to Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News. "Will we start him? I don't know. He practiced today, he went up and down. That was a positive."

Caldwell-Pope entered training camp competing with Jodie Meeks for the starting two-guard job — and with Meeks still several weeks away from returning due to stress fractures in his back, KCP seems like the natural choice to open the season in the lineup. If KCP wasn't able to return, Van Gundy previously indicated that Cartier Martin would likely get the nod, but that seems unlikely now given the glowing reports of Sunday's practice. From Goodwill:

"[Caldwell-Pope] looked good," [Kyle] Singler said. "He didn't look like he was favoring his injury. I'm sure he could've came back sooner but it's better safe than sorry. He was quick as ever. Seemed fine to me."

In three preseason games, Caldwell-Pope averaged a team-high 16.7 points to go along with 2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and a steal in 27.3 minutes. He converted 7-of-15 3-point attempts, good for 46.3 percent. It was a solid showing after a tremendous summer league season when he averaged 24 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.6 assists in five games. If he continues to play this well in the regular season, he'll enter the conversation for Most Improved Player after a relatively quiet rookie year, when he averaged just 5.9 points in 19.8 minutes.

Martin, meanwhile, appeared in six preseason games, averaging 8.8 points to with 2.5 rebounds and 2 steals in 23.8 minutes. Like KCP, Martin was solid from beyond the arc, converting 7-of-19 attempts (36.8 percent).

As for the starting small forward spot, Van Gundy indicated he's leaning toward Singler — more to come on that.