With just a couple of weeks before the return of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers will be missing two key players in Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. Bradley won’t be participating at all while there’s a chance Rondo comes back when he’s healthy. Regardless, the Lakers are going to need some other players to step up. Alex Caruso figures to be one of the players who could see role expanded.
In a Q&A with Anthony Slater of The Athletic, Caruso talked about his new opportunity.
Yeah, obviously with Rondo gone, there are minutes to be had. We’re going to miss his experience and his playmaking, his ability to get guys shots. So guys like me and Quinn [Cook] and JR [Smith] and Dion [Waiters] are going to have to be ready to fill more minutes. Maybe [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Danny [Green] stretch out a few.
Caruso also went into how he differentiates from Rondo:
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. 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.
Then when you put shooting around them like Dion or JR, it opens up the floor. So it’s exciting for me to be able to play with them. If I’m out there with a lineup that has JR, Dion, Kuz and Dwight or even throw Markieff [Morris] in there with somebody, it’s a lot of shooting with a lob threat at the rim. That’s a point guard’s dream.
Caruso may be the most unassuming guy on the team but he’s played extraordinarily well with LeBron James. That said, he’s never played in an NBA playoff game so that will be a concern. He’s probably not a candidate to take Bradley’s starting spot but he should get plenty of minutes off the bench.
Caruso Says Team Is Looking Good
The Lakers weren’t able to practice for months, but Caruso says the team is off to a good start:
Overall, the team has looked solid. There wasn’t a big shaking off the rust period. I think that’s a testament to how well the chemistry has been over the year, even though we’ve added a couple pieces and lost a couple. The core chemistry of the team is still solid.
The team has talked a lot about their chemistry in the past and that could pay off for Los Angeles. The Lakers have been very clear about their goal of winning a championship. The players look to be in incredible shape and once they can get past the initial rust of not playing for months, they should be able to pick up where they left off.
Follow the Heavy on Lakers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Caruso Won’t Take All of Rondo’s Minutes
While Rondo getting injured certainly leaves a void on the bench, the Lakers did add Dion Waiters and JR Smith. Both of those guys could fill similar roles, but Caruso will probably see the most minutes in Rondo’s absence. However, he knows he can’t just come in and take all of those minutes:
I don’t think I’ll be the sole filler of all the minutes Rondo took up, because I think the ways I impact the game defensively, I think — especially in the playoffs, going 100 percent every possession — I’d need a break. I won’t be filling them all myself. We have a ton of great options. But if that’s what [I am] asked … I’ll do my best.
Caruso doesn’t have a whole of lot experience playing extensive minutes. There will probably be some trial and error as the NBA returns. Caruso could end up having a huge role or a very small role as the Lakers get further and further in the playoffs.