The Los Angeles Lakers are done with their scrimmage games. Later this week, they’ll face the L.A. Clippers in the first of eight seeding games, and it appears they’ve gotten the backcourt will lean heavily on Alex Caruso.
After the Lakers beat the Washington Wizards on Monday, head coach Frank Vogel spoke highly of Caruso and what he’s expecting from the point guard moving forward. Caruso, who missed the first scrimmage game and fouled out fast in the second, made a solid impression in the third game and is as confident as ever with the restart of the season only a few days away.
“The things I do that don’t always show up are the things that I think help this team a lot,” Caruso said. “Whether it’s coverage on defense, boxing out, making the extra pass. I was on the receiving end of some extra passes today.
“I’m comfortable playing point guard. I played point guard since my sophomore year of high school. This team is one of the first times I’ve played a little off the ball. Obviously, with [Rajon] Rondo out, I’m going to carry a little more of the load playing point guard in the second unit.”
One of the major concerns for the Lakers heading into the NBA bubble was the backcourt depth. The team lost Rajon Rondo to an injury that will keep him out as much as two months while Avery Bradley decided to opt-out of the restart for personal reasons. That left a significant void at point guard, which Caruso is ready and seemingly able to fill.
“My role game-by-game is kind of different,” Caruso said. “Depending on matchups. Depending on how we’re playing and how other teams defend us. I’m asked to do different things and asked to guard different people.
“Whatever it is, I’ve kind of been practicing for that role this whole year. Rondo has been out at times; I’ve played a little more point…There’s nothing that I think I’m not prepared for, and that might be naive confidence of myself, but as a basketball player, if you are playing at the highest level, that’s the kind of mindset you have to have.”
As of right now, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to take Bradley’s starting spot in the backcourt with LeBron James being the primary ballhandler. However, Caruso will more than likely be the leader of the second unit at the point with Vogel very confident in the 26-year-old’s ability to shoulder the load.
Along with Caruso winning over the coaching staff to be that floor general off the bench, the team has been impressed by the play of newcomers JR Smith and Dion Waiters. Both players had strong performances during the scrimmage games and have fit in seamlessly.
The Lakers may be the most prepared team heading into the seeding games with everyone on the team on the same page moving forward and ready to compete for a title.