Lonzo Ball is well on his way to missing just under half the entire season. Rajon Rondo has missed 34 games this year. They’ve been mostly two ships passing in the night, and as a result there have been games where the Los Angeles Lakers either literally did not employ a point guard or may as well not have, based on what Rondo gave them.
Given what Alex Caruso has shown since being called upon, it’s fair to wonder why it took so long to make the call. Luke Walton was asked about whether he thinks Caruso has an NBA future recently, and there didn’t seem to be much doubt in Walton’s mind (via Lakers.com):
”I do. He’s tough. He’s smart. He’s got good size on him, he’s a good defender. Works hard. I think he can make it.”
Walton was then asked about whether Caruso would continue to get minutes moving forward this season:
”Yeah. Like I said after last game, we’re looking for guys that are bringing it, and I know every time he gets an opportunity the energy is going to be there, so if he continues to play the way he did last game he’ll be a full part of the rotation.”
Caruso said last week that continuing to play hard won’t be a problem for him
“I play as hard as I can, space the floor and be ready to shoot when I get the ball. Just be aggressive and guard as hard as I can, rebound and be a good teammate. Those are the things that got me here and those are the things that are going to carry me to the next level,” Caruso said.
A very legitimate case can be made that Caruso is actually as good as (if not better than) Rondo at this stage of the season. For one thing, he’s capable of staying in front of his shadow, which comes in handy on defense.
Another nice difference: Caruso cares enough to at least remember where the Lakers bench is located.
Two-way contracts are typically handed out to two kinds of players: Younger players with enough upside to invest further into, or guys who aren’t necessarily prospects any more but can be stopgaps if the parent team has serious injury problems. That second one should sound familiar.
Caruso has played exceedingly well. He was also always capable of playing this way. Given the way the season has gone, it’s really too bad he wasn’t given this opportunity sooner.