Alex Caruso has been missing in action since Dec. 27, but the Los Angeles Lakers fan-favorite guard is expecting to be returning soon.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel spoke to reporters on Tuesday and said he expects Caruso to rejoin the team following their current road trip, which wraps up Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I think he’s going to be available. He’s been getting individual workouts in,” Vogel told reporters. “We’re hopeful. We’ll have to see how he’s feeling. You don’t want to throw a guy in there that isn’t ready, he’s been out not able to do too much, but we’re hopeful to have him there for our next game when we get back.”
Caruso has played in three games this season, averaging 13.7 minutes per game. He’s averaging 5.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1 assist per game. Caruso has become a key rotational player for the Lakers, which have posted a point differential of +14.2 when he’s been on the court, according to Cleaning the Glass (h/t Silver Screen and Roll).
Caruso has been out due to the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols, but little else has been provided detailing why he’s out. It’s unknown if he tested positive for COVID-19. Caruso had been dealing with a minor wrist injury, but Vogel made sure to note when he missed a previous game that it wasn’t the reason he was not with the team.
“Alex isn’t going to play tonight, but not because of the wrist,” Vogel told reporters on Dec. 29. “He’s not playing because of the league’s health and safety protocols.”
When pressed on more details, Vogel said: “Forrest Gump: that’s all I can say about that.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Out for Lakers Against Memphis
The Lakers will be missing another guard on Tuesday against the Grizzlies, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope taking a cautious approach to his ankle injury. Vogel confirmed KCP would be out on Tuesday, but said his ankle was feeling better. Kyle Kuzma will start for him, giving the Lakers a slightly larger look.
Caldwell-Pope was optimistic he could get on the court after missing the last game, but echoed what Vogel had to say.
“Ankle is feeling great,” Caldwell-Pope said on Tuesday. “I practiced today and got a little movement in. Still not 100%, but hopefully I’ll be able to go tomorrow. Depends on how I feel.
“I feel like our bench is deep enough for me to take my time coming back,” Caldwell-Pope added. “We’ve just got a group of guys who had this concept last year, the next man up mentality. And we still have that mentality here. I feel like just taking my time and making sure I’m 100 percent [is important].”
Lakers Embracing Having Target on Their Backs
The Lakers have raced out to a 5-2 start, winning their last three consecutively. But it hasn’t been easy for the champs night in and night out as they work through growing pains with some new faces. They know they’ll get their opponents’ best shot every time out.
“That’s the biggest challenge,” Vogel said. “Everybody’s best effort is going to come our way, and I’ve found that in not just the effort piece, the shot-making, the focus, the attention to detail, we’re going to get everybody’s best (in every way) throughout the year. But I’ve challenged our guys to embrace that as a blessing.
“If the other team is playing at their best every night, we’ll be forced to be at our best, and that’s going to push us and challenge us to be great. So to me this is a great thing for us, one that can lead to some challenges throughout the regular season, and maybe even some losses, but one that in the long run is going to help us come playoff time.”
The Lakers are currently +325 to win the title, per Vegas Insider. That makes them slight favorites against the Bucks (+500), Nets (+525) and Clippers (+550).