Over the last couple of seasons there has been no bigger target for the anger of Los Angeles Lakers fans then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Many believed he was only with the Lakers due to Klutch Sports representation and his inconsistency led to some calling for him to be traded.
That all changed during the Lakers’ championship run, however, as Caldwell-Pope stepped into the starting lineup inside the bubble and became one of the team’s most important pieces. He would then be rewarded by the Lakers with a three-year, $39 million contract in free agency and again figures to be an important piece of the puzzle.
This season will be different as the Lakers are the clear championship favorite, but Caldwell-Pope views that as a good thing. “I feel like it’s going to lock us in mentally,” the veteran guard said recently.
“Right now we do have that target on our backs. Everybody is trying to knock us down, and I feel like it’s going to bring us closer together and our chemistry is going to be even stronger than it was last year.”
As far as the additions the Lakers made, Caldwell-Pope believes they will all add to what the Lakers started.
“Marc has won a championship with Toronto, so that brings more championship mentality in. And we just got a lot of competitors,” he said. “Dennis (Schroder), Montrezl (Harrell) and Wesley Matthews, it’s a lot of competitors.”
Things can change after a team wins a championship sometimes as teams can get complacent and with the rest of the league coming for them, potentially fold. But Caldwell-Pope doesn’t believe that will happen on this team for one simple reason.
“We have LeBron James. His mindset and the way he approaches the game, it’s going to rub off on everybody else,” Caldwell-Pope noted. “I know he’s coming back ready to compete for that second championship. He’s going to let us know from jump what time it is.
“As our leader, you’ve got to respect that. For me, I respect that as a young guy looking up to him. He’s going to make it simple. He’s our leader and all we’ve got to do is be mentally ready and ready to play.”
Caldwell-Pope reflects on one-year contracts
It’s also worth noting that Caldwell-Pope is finally with the Lakers for the longterm. He signed one-year deals in 2017 and 2018, while in 2019 he agreed to what amounted to another one-year contract as the two-year pact had a player option which he exercised.
“I believed in myself. Taking the one-year deals, it was something me and my agent discussed over and over. Just betting on myself with the one-year deals,” Caldwell-Pope said. “This year, to come out and perform how I performed, I’m truly blessed and humbled they believed in me enough to give me a comfortable deal that I haven’t had in so long.”
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