The Bald Mamba army has spoken.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso — who is averaging 19.5 minutes and 5.4 points per game — broke into the top 10 on the first All-Star ballot returns, finding himself sandwiched between Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Phoenix sharpshooter Devin Booker.
Caruso has garnered a whopping 92,233 votes, putting him eighth on the list. Dallas guard Luca Doncic leads the way with 1,073,957.
LA center Dwight Howard also found himself in the mix among frontcourt vote-getters. He is currently 10th, just behind former Laker Brandon Ingram.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are No. 1 and 2 among frontcourt votes in the Western Conference, respectively. Only Doncic and defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo have more votes.
Alex Caruso a Cult Hero With the Lakers
Caruso has become a cult hero of sorts in Los Angeles for his big dunks and defensive presence. He re-signed with the Lakers this offseason after seeing an opportunity for an increased role.
“I knew there was opportunity,” Caruso said. “Coach Vogel called me when I was pretty close to making a decision and said there’s opportunity for minutes and that’s all I’ve ever needed in my career. And L.A. was the most money that anyone was going to offer me out of the guys I was talking to. And LeBron, A.D. – I knew we were going to be good.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has gone as far to call Caruso an “elite” defender.
“Caruso is a star defender. I think he’s elite,” Vogel said. “When you study him on tape or just watch him in summer workouts, you see he has pretty good feet and good length. But there are a lot of 6-foot-5 defenders that you think should be great defenders cause they’re long, but they’re not good defenders. But Alex is. He has great instincts and that’s the biggest thing with him.”
Alex Caruso Dealing With Calf Injury
Caruso left the Lakers latest victory against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night with calf tightness. He played just four minutes before exiting.
“It’s been minor but they did tell me a game or two ago that he’s fighting some tightness in his calf,” Vogel told reporters after the game. “It’s something we keep an eye on. We didn’t think he’d miss any time, but at toward that end of the third — it was a long quarter — and they informed me he would not return.”
Even with Caruso banged up, it didn’t seem like it would matter as the Lakers looked like they were going to cruise to victory against the Suns. However, a late collapse forced the starters back in the game. LA still pulled out the win, 117-107, but the Suns made it a game after trailing by as many as 36.
“If we continue to play like that then we’re gonna lose games like that, which we don’t want,” Anthony Davis said after the game, via Brett Dawson of The Athletic. “We don’t want to come in blowing a 36-point lead.”
The Lakers — who lead the Western Conference at 27-7 — have won three in a row and face the Pelicans on Friday.