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Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope welcomes the challenge

Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope welcomes the challenge
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope attempts a shot during the first half of a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. (Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

He welcomes the competition for the Laker’ starting two-guard spot because it can only push Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to maximize his potential. He relishes the opportunity to compete for this job against a teammate and friend because it can only make Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart both strive to be their best.

In Caldwell-Pope’s eyes, the two of them scraping every day in practice and games can only serve as a benefit for the Lakers.

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And that’s what matters the most.

“We make each other work in practice,” Caldwell-Pope said late Saturday night after the Lakers lost to the Clippers in an exhibition game at the Honda Center. “We’re always on the opposite team. Even if we’re on the same team, we both run the floor, we both do similar things.

“We both compete. We give that competitiveness from both of us. It’s a fight. We enjoy it. We’re just making each other better.”

Over the course of his first five years in the NBA, Caldwell-Pope primarily has been a starter.

He started 41 out the 80 games he played in as rookie with the Detroit Pistons. He then started in all 82 in his second season with the Pistons, all 76 that he played in in his third season and 75 out of the 76 he played in his fourth season. He then started in all 74 games he played in with the Lakers last season.

Now it is not a given he’ll hear his name in the starting lineup.

“It’s all about winning,” Caldwell-Pope said. “If that’s what it is and I’m coming off the bench, I have to keep my same focus and do the same thing. It’s all about keeping that focus, really.”

In the first four exhibition games, Caldwell-Pope has started two games and come off the bench the other two.

He’s averaging 7.3 points, but is struggling with his shot, making just 36% of his field goals, just 14.3% of his three-pointers.

But Caldwell-Pope maintained that there’s no difference for him as a starter or a reserve.

“I feel like if I’m starting, I do the same thing, as far as like running the floor, playing defense, trying to get out in transition and knock down the wide-open shot,” he said. “It’s the same when I’m coming off the bench as well. I’m just trying to stay in that same rhythm, just stay focused.”

Perhaps, Caldwell-Pope was asked, he has even more pressure to perform and even start since he re-signed with the Lakers on just a one-year deal for $12 million. He played under similar circumstances last season when he signed a one-year deal for $18 million in the summer of 2017.

“I’ve been through the stressful stage last year, as far as like the one-year deal,” Caldwell-Pope said. “But now it’s more like just come and just ball. Just play defense and do what you do.”

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