The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly been the prime example of continuity in recent years, but they do have a few players that have been with the team for more than two seasons, and against all odds, Alex Caruso is one of them.
While Caruso didn’t become a full-fledged fan favorite until the tail end of last season, when he first showed he can make an impact for the Lakers, he signed a two-way contract with the team in the summer of 2017. In his first season in Los Angeles, Caruso spent all but 37 games in the G League with the South Bay Lakers, which he believes prepared him for the position he’s in now.
“For me, I’ve been having to play in high-pressure situations,” Caruso said after practice on Monday. “I’ve been teammates with LeBron for this whole year, I had to play to get a career for the first two or three years (of my career) ... There’s been pressure for me to perform and to perform well for a couple years now.
“Obviously there’s a different result and a different goal with this set of games and the pressure that comes with it, but you’ve got one choice: You can either be afraid and fall into the pressure, or you can show up and play basketball, and I’m planning on doing the second one.”
Caruso struggled to get into a good rhythm during the seeding games, and as just as he was starting to feel comfortable, he suffered a neck injury. Caruso tried to play through the injury, but he re-aggravated it and missed the Lakers’ last seeding game.
Fortunately, Caruso had a few days to rest, and he feels good enough to play in Game 1 of the Lakers’ playoff series with the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.
“I feel pretty good,” Caruso said. “I don’t know if anybody is at 100% after jumping back in to playing basketball after being off for a couple months. But I feel good. I’ve practiced the last three or four days and done all the live stuff, so I’m ready to go.”
In the absence of Avery Bradley, Caruso is expected to be part of the Lakers’ collective effort to slow down Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, so let’s hope that he looks mobile on Tuesday. Lillard has shot 41.7% from the field, including 20% from 3-point range, when guarded by Caruso this season, according to NBA.com.
The Lakers and Trail Blazers will tip-off at 6 p.m. on TNT nationally, and Spectrum SportsNet locally. We’ll get our first look at how ready Caruso and the team really are then.