It was announced just before tip-off that Caruso would miss the game with what is being dubbed a back contusion. With it just being a scrimmage, it’s likely the Lakers are just taking a very conservative approach with Caruso, as their guard rotation is already dangerously thin. Starting shooting guard Avery Bradley did not join the team in Orlando and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo is expected to mis 6-8 weeks after he fractured his thumb during a practice.
Caruso will be a key reserve for the Lakers when the season does restart, taking on a bigger role in the absence of both Rondo and Bradley. Before the season was put on hold, Caruso was averaging 17.8 minutes per game, notching 5.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He also snatched one steal per game and provided some highlight reel moments.
“I don’t have the same natural ability that Rondo does to be able to throw some crazy passes and have his IQ for the game,” said during a recent interview with Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “But I think me being able to run the show and get guys shots might open up opportunities for (Kyle) Kuzma to handle a little more, be the ballhandler in pick-and-roll with Dwight. That’s been successful for us this year.”
LeBron James Has Great Chemistry With Alex Caruso
Caruso also showed off quite the chemistry with Lakers start LeBron James, who dubbed him the GOAT. The two combined for a +20.8 net rating this season.
“Just playing the game the right way,” James said of Caruso during the season. “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.”
Lakers Move Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Into Starting Lineup
While Caruso is likely to remain in a bench role when the season officially restarts on July 30, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has the inside track on a spot in the starting lineup for the Lakers.
Caldwell-Pope will start on Thursday against the Mavericks and the team has the utmost faith in him to step in and perform well. KCP did not miss a game this season and the Lakers went 17-3 when he was inserted into the starting lineup while Bradley was injured. Caldwell-Pope averaged 25.4 minutes per game, netting 9.5 points and shooting just under 40 percent from 3-point land.
“Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did a phenomenal job when Avery was injured early in the season. That’s really where I’m at in terms of what the starting lineup is going to look like with him being in that slot,” Vogel recently told reporters. “Obviously, seeing how things go throughout practice and other guys will have opportunities.”
The Lakers big guns aren’t expected to get a ton of run in the scrimmages. Vogel said that James and Anthony Davis will only play the first half and that nobody will play big minutes.
Markieff Morris, who cleared quarantine on Thursday, will not play.