Alex Caruso isn’t much for lavish celebrations. So when he finally got the thing he has worked toward for two years, he got back into the gym as fast as possible.
Caruso enters this season with an NBA contract after two seasons on two-way deals with the Lakers and one as a full-fledged G League player in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s system. His place on the Lakers’ roster was hard-earned.
“I think everything for me has just been about opportunity and just being myself,” Caruso said. “I think that’s what’s been so great about this journey. … I’ve just been myself the whole time and done exactly the same thing I’ve been doing since I was a fifth-, sixth-grade kid.”
With the contract comes a level of comfort for Caruso. He no longer has to waffle between the NBA and the G League, so he can focus on developing chemistry with just one team. There aren’t many players less experienced than Caruso on the Lakers’ veteran-laden team, but he has shown a willingness in practice to help others by taking initiative he might not have had last year.
“It’s not just about what you know but what you’re picking up that we’re teaching,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We ask all our guys to lead from every chair in the room, so to speak. He’s not one of our experienced vets, but he’s a young player with a great IQ and great leadership attributes. He’s definitely directing guys on the floor in certain plays and defensive coverages and showing leadership.”
Caruso didn’t spend the summer trying to add any one thing to his game. Rather, he wanted to improve on the things he did that earned him his place on the team.
“It was just about developing, continuing to improve on the things I was already doing well,” Caruso said. “Make good decisions as a point guard. Being able to decipher whether it’s to run the team or be aggressive in transition and push the pace. Continuing to shoot the ball really well.”
Kyle Kuzma took shots after practice with rookie guard Talen Horton-Tucker rebounding for him. Both have a stress-reaction foot injury and haven’t been able to practice yet.
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For Kuzma, that means a delayed start to his third NBA training camp. There’s a good chance he misses part of the regular season too.
“He’s missed a significant amount of time already,” Vogel said. “We’ll see where he’s at when we get back from China [for two exhibition games]. Hopefully he’s cleared and we can start activating him for practice. We’ll be smart still.”
It’s part of why the Lakers are being sure to preserve veteran forward Jared Dudley, who missed several days of practice because of soreness in his knees. Vogel said the team is being cautious with Dudley due to Kuzma’s injury shrinking its number of available forwards.
The superstar debut
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are expected to play Saturday in San Francisco for the Lakers’ preseason opener, Vogel said.
“My preference is that your main guys play as little as possible,” said Vogel, who didn’t name his starters for the game against Golden State. “Basically have the mind-set of only enough — as much as we need to get a rhythm, not more than that. Rhythm and conditioning. Those two aspects are important, especially with a new team that we have.”