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Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope makes up for cold shooting with defense

Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope makes up for cold shooting with defense
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope argues a call with referee Jason Phillips during the first half Saturday night. (Harry How / Getty Images)

With a confident look in his eyes, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped up to shoot the technical-foul free throw for the Lakers in the second quarter of their home opener against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Saturday night.

Caldwell-Pope missed.

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It was that kind of night for him and it’s been that way for Caldwell-Pope from the exhibition season through his first two games with the Lakers.

His offense has not quite caught up to his solid defense, his shots betraying him seemingly at every turn.

Nevertheless, Caldwell-Pope remains assured of what his role will be for the Lakers this season.

“My role is pretty much how I built my career,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I established myself on the defensive end. I get myself involved by getting my hands on balls. I think my offense is just part of it. But my role is to be a very good defender for this team.”

Right now, he can’t get his offense uncorked as the starting shooting guard.

During the exhibition season, Caldwell-Pope shot only 25% from three-point range and averaged 9.8 points per game. He shot 38.3% from three-point range last season for the Lakers and averaged 13.4 points.

He missed his first four shots against the Rockets in the first half, and three of those were three-pointers.

But he’s stuck with it, finally scoring in the third quarter by making a back-door cut and scoring on a layup off a pass from LeBron James.

A few seconds later, though, Caldwell-Pope missed a pull-up jumper.

Still, to his credit, he kept running and cutting to the basket and staying involved in the game.

It paid off when he slipped back door and scored off a pass from Rajon Rondo while being fouled. Caldwell-Pope made the free throw for a three-point play.

“I just feel like I have to get in the flow of the game,” he said. “I didn’t get that many shots in the first game in Portland Thursday night, but I felt like I was playing well on the defensive end. I was moving and cutting on offense, which allowed my teammates to get wide-open shots.”

Caldwell-Pope’s main assignment against the Rockets was to defend the dangerous James Harden, who finished with 36 points.

Harden had 25 points through the first three quarters with Caldwell-Pope and other defenders trying to guard the NBA’s most valuable player from last season.

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Caldwell-Pope finished with five points on two-for-eight shooting.

But more than anything else, he kept his head in the game even when his offense wasn’t what he wanted it to be.

“He impacts the game defensively,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “When he’s locked in and going, the way he hounds guards and fighting through screens and all those type of things, getting in the passing lane… Obviously it’s nice to see the ball go through. Everyone wants to see that. But he has the ability to impact it on both sides.”

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