A season ago, when Lonzo Ball got hurt and missed time, the Los Angeles Lakers relied heavily on Tyler Ennis, which would have been fine had they been tanking. Towards the end of the season, though, Alex Caruso grabbed some minutes by virtue of not being Tyler Ennis. As a result, with Rajon Rondo out, some fans are wondering where Caruso might be.
Luke Walton says not to expect minutes from Caruso any time soon, even if he is on the current road trip (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“Each situation is different. With Caruso we obviously trust him. He was with us last year and helped us, he knows our system, he knows what we want to do.
“In this case, where we’re at right now and the people we’re playing, he’s more of an insurance policy, an extra body to have on this road trip, whether it’s practice or -- knock on wood -- something else happens to somebody, but for right now he’s here as someone we trust. But we’re not counting on using him right now.”
It’s important to also note that Caruso is on a two-way contract, meaning he can only be with the Lakers for 45 days until the team must send him down to the G League for the remainder of the South Bay Lakers’ season or sign him to a fully guaranteed deal (the latter of which the Lakers don’t have an open roster spot to do).
Fortunately for the Lakers, a good chunk of the time Rondo will be out will be spent playing lesser opponents, making the need for a true backup point guard a little less desperate. Still, there have been stretches where any able-bodied point guard would help because of the mental approach they bring to the game.
Walton has opted to lean on Brandon Ingram as the team’s de facto backup point guard, and because LeBron James is so great with the ball, they can get by for any stretch Lonzo isn’t on the court. Where the team gets into trouble is when Ingram is seen as the actual point guard and James and Ball are both sitting. Those lineups tend to lack rhythm completely — a result of not having someone out there to keep the team focused on maintaining said rhythm.
As Walton says, though, things might change. Injuries happen. The competition will at some point get tougher. Maybe Rondo misses more time than his original timeframe. Caruso is still an important part of the roster just in case disaster strikes. But for now, the Lakers will try to tread water with Ingram as the backup point guard.