Through the first four days of training camp, Avery Bradley has made quite the impression on Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and, at this point, it’s probably fair to guess that he’s the favorite to land the starting point guard gig. However, Bradley’s not the only guard that has caught Vogel’s attention.
After practice on Tuesday, Vogel said he’s liked what he’s seen from Alex Caruso, who will be looking to carve out some minutes in a deep guard rotation after a promising 15-game stretch to close last season.
“Alex has looked really good. He’s everything we thought. He impacts the game on both ends of the floor, he’s got great instincts. If he’s getting pressured, he’s going to pass and inside-cut,” Vogel said.
Vogel has also liked the way Caruso can make an impact on or off the ball, and how tough he is.
“He’s been dinged up a couple times and kind of showed his toughness at shaking things off, like a ‘that’s not going to keep me out’ type of thing. He’s had a good camp,” Vogel said.
Caruso wasn’t as complimentary of his play, but he thinks the team as a whole has shown a good, competitive spirit in training camp so far.
“I think I’ve been doing well. Obviously I’m my harshest critic so there’s things I’d like to do and I wish I would never make mistakes at all, but that’s not realistic. But so far, yeah, I’m happy with myself and the team, and how hard we’ve been going over the last four, five days.”
For the first time since he declared for the NBA Draft in 2016, Caruso won’t be competing for a roster spot after re-signing with the Lakers on two-year, fully-guaranteed $5.5 million deal in July.
Caruso said there wasn’t much of a celebration on his part because he knew he was getting a contract from someone (and that’s just kind of who he is) but he is excited to have some security going into the season and, of course, to be playing basketball again.
“I was eager to just be a full-fledged NBA player and be here in training camp and get the season going. September and the end of August took forever for me because you’re just working out — you come to the gym every day, but it’s not basketball, you know? It’s just getting shots up, doing drills, lifting weights,” Caruso said. “Once you’re able to get in the gym and practice and be with the guys and start being coached and stuff like that, that’s when you know it’s actually here.
“That’s more my celebration than anything.”
Caruso will have the opportunity to compete for minutes at point guard with Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook and the aforementioned Bradley this season, but the 25-year-old said he’s been also spending time at two, which he believes will increase his chances of seeing playing time once the season starts. However, he recognizes just how many capable guards there are on the roster, and is confident his time to prove himself will come, whether that’s sooner or later in the season.
“On a broader spectrum, there’s 82 games in a season and for where this team wants to go, there’s going to be games after those 82,” Caruso said. “It’s going to take everyone to get to that point. There’s going to be times where guys are hurt or guys are older and need to take some rest to recover, so we’re going to be able to step in with whoever it is that needs to plug in and be able to get the job done on a given night.”
Caruso is also aware that (to the chagrin of devoted following on social media) he won’t the focal point of the offense when he’s on the floor, so he’s looking forward to doing what he can to help LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers win as many as games as possible.
“I think we have a bunch of guys that do a bunch of different things really well, LeBron just happens to do all of them really well. So, whatever position he’s playing — whether’s it’s one, two, three, four or five, depending on our lineups — you kind of just play off of it. You know he’s going to do his job, you know what you’re going to get out of him, so there’s really not too much to focus on how you’re playing with him,” Caruso said.
“I don’t think about. I think about what I’m doing and what I need to be doing.”