The Los Angeles Lakers came off the All-Star break with a dominant win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. LeBron James had his typical dominant performance and fan-favorite Alex Caruso made a couple of memorable plays. Caruso and James have formed a surprisingly effective duo this season. James believes he knows why the two work so well together.
“Just playing the game the right way,” James said after the game. “Very cerebral basketball players. We’re making winning plays, both of us. We work well together, and every minute we’re on the floor, we’re just trying to make it productive, trying to be in the plus and not the minus. It’s a great combination for our ball club.”
Caruso and James could not be more opposite, but they seem to gel. Caruso may not play big minutes or score a lot of points, but he’s clearly become a valuable part of the team and James appreciates his presence.
Caruso is an unlikely star in Los Angeles and making big dunks like he did on Friday only adds to his star power. The way he plays off James also makes him very effective and he knows it.
“I just do a really good job of playing off of him,” Caruso said about playing with LeBron. “I think one of my biggest strengths is recognizing defensive assignments when we can attack and with LeBron, he draws so much attention that a lot of times there’s a guy on the other team that’s not paying attention and we take advantage of that. Once we do that, people are going to realize that and free up LeBron, so I think just for me – being a smart player, and LeBron is obviously very easy to play with. He’s LeBron James.”
James values intelligent players so that likely plays a big role in the respect he’s gained for Caruso. It’s hard to exactly pin down why the two works so well together, but it’s clearly a winning combination for Los Angeles.
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Frank Vogel Praises the Duo
Head coach Frank Vogel hasn’t been shy about his love for Caruso and it’s gotta make him feel good that his star player plays well with him. Vogel dived in and dropped some stats about the Caruso-James duo.
“There’s the eye test, but LeBron and Alex together is one of our best combinations throughout the season from a net rating standpoint,” Vogel said Friday. “We’ll continue to explore ways that we can make sure that’s getting out there enough without over-doing it. The last two games, he’s just been playing out of his mind. He’s given us great depth throughout the season, so we’ll continue to evaluate.”
The Lakers have been longing for more ball-handling help off their bench this season, but they should probably just expand Caruso’s role. He’s consistently solid and he shouldn’t only play when James is on the court. Caruso is an unlikely story, but he’s a good basketball player. The Lakers are fortunate to have a cheap, young option like him on the bench.