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Lakers’ Alex Caruso reminds Frank Vogel of Paul George, earns ‘Mariano Rivera’ nickname

Alex Caruso, Lakers, Frank Vogel, Paul George, Mariano Rivera

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had the occasional feeling of déjà vu watching Alex Caruso on the defensive end in his first summer with the team.

Vogel said the athleticism Caruso showed during pickup games in the summer of 2019 was reminiscent of Paul George, whom he coached in Indiana with the Pacers:

“When I was watching our pickup games from last season as we built up to training camp, he was just all over the place with his defensive ability,” Vogel said, via Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated. “His defensive instincts and athleticism really reminded me of when I used to coach Paul George. I started talking to my coaching staff like, Am I crazy with what I’m seeing here?”

Caruso has made a number of highlight-reel plays in his young Lakers career, though that reel mostly consists of dunks and high-flying exploits on the other end of the floor.

The former Texas A&M product has really made his bread and butter as a guy who can defend both guard positions with his height and quickness. Caruso is not the same scoring archetype as George, but much like PG-13, he can fire away from the perimeter. Indeed, the Lakers guard is shooting 44 percent from deep on 2.3 attempts per game.

Vogel also hailed Caruso as a guy who finishes games, likening him to a certain Hall of Fame baseball closer:

“Some games, he plays three minutes in the first half and then the entire fourth quarter,” Vogel said, via Nadkarni. “My nickname for him is Mariano Rivera, knowing he’s someone I can trust that is going to deliver for us.”

On the surface, Caruso is merely a role player who averages under 19 minutes per game.

But Vogel’s description of his physical attributes as well as his ability to finish games with the first unit speaks to Caruso’s importance to this Lakers team.