At least theoretically, it made some sense heading into the season that Alex Caruso could be the prototypical point guard you’d want playing alongside LeBron James. He’s a bigger guard who defends extremely well, doesn’t turn the ball over much and can hit open jumpers.
In theory, he made sense. But we all know how different theories can work when put into practice, and that’s without taking into account how rarely James feels comfortable around younger players (cut to Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram glumly nodding into their beignets). So the practice was still something to be a little nervous about.
So far, though, the results have lived up to the hopes that came with those theories, and Caruso told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com why he thinks that might be:
MT: Finally, back to LeBron. Why do you think you’ve fit so well, so quickly, with an all-time great?
Caruso: I think he just appreciates the way I go about business. I play really hard. He knows that I’m a cerebral player, that I understand the game, I understand spacing and how to set screens to get guys open. A lot of that stuff is beneficial for him, because I’m usually the guy being guarded by the smallest player. So at the end of games, I’m (often) in the actions to get him open. But ultimately, I think he just appreciates the competitiveness; he wants to win, he’s a really, really competitive guy, and at the end of the day, that’s probably my best attribute. I play hard, and I compete, and that’s a reciprocated respect kind of thing.
It’s pretty extraordinary for a player with Caruso’s background (young-ish, undrafted former G-Leaguer) to gain James’ trust. I joked earlier about the young core
James tried to personally deliver to New Orleans the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, but there really did seem to be an odd dynamic last year that had to do with James’ impatience with where the kids were.
Now, it’s easier for James to trust just one or two younger players this year in Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, but the quickest way to earn a superstar’s vote of confidence is through results, and Caruso and done plenty of that.
In 236 minutes together, lineups featuring both James and Caruso have scored 114 points per 100 possessions and carried a 92.4 defensive rating. That’s an insane 21.6 net rating. Add Davis to that grouping, and the net rating jumps to 28.4.
That success might have something to do with James firing off this Instagram post last night:
LeBron doesn't care about your ratings pic.twitter.com/ashWvHtlvr— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) December 9, 2019
Caruso has made the most of this opportunity so far this season and impressed the people he absolutely had to if he was going to earn a larger role. Now that he has succeeded in that first step, it’s about continuing to produce so that others across the league take notice.