Though the Los Angeles Lakers had LeBron James representing the squad during the 2021 All-Star Game, they could’ve seen more of their players participating in the events.
Lakers fan-favorite guard Alex Caruso received an invite from the NBA to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest, but he declined the opportunity.
This year’s Slam Dunk Contest comprised of three participants — Anfernee Simons (the eventual winner), Obi Toppin and Cassius Stanley — rather than the usual number of four.
Caruso explained how his dunk arsenal is limited compared to the league’s bouncier players, like the three dunkers above, so it wouldn’t have been the right fit.
“I can do a couple tricks here and there but people are jumping over people doing windmills, doing between-the-legs twice or something like that so I don’t think I’m quite on that level of Dunk Contest material,” Caruso said. “Like you said, I’m probably more of an in-game dunker.”
Caruso added how the minimal rest during the first-half schedule played a factor in him not wanting to travel more to join the contest.
“Really needed a break with the condensed offseason and a title defense coming in the playoffs so for me, I think I made the right choice,” Caruso said. “Sorry to disappoint any fans or any Laker hopefuls out there for making an appearance, but it was necessary for me.”
In the final round of the contest, Simons attempted a dunk in which he tried to simultaneously kiss the rim. Though he turned his head back at the last second, Simons got up there. For Caruso, kissing the rim is something he can’t compete with Simons for.
“No. But I can get close, I can probably get somewhere in the vicinity.”
Vogel believes Lakers ‘can do special things’ with No. 1 defense
Entering the second half of the season, the Lakers possess the NBA’s best defensive rating. Caruso’s defensive prowess off the bench plays a pivotal role in that, too, as the guard has the best defensive rating of any Laker who has played at least 20 games this season.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained how having the league’s toughest defense will benefit the squad the rest of the season.
“If you put Anthony Davis and LeBron James and Schroder and Trezz and Marc and KCP, Kuz, the offensive firepower that we have on this team, come playoff time with an elite defense, if you pair the two of them, we can do special things,” Vogel said. “So the care factor is going to remain at a high level on the defensive side of the ball and that’s gonna be something that we take into the playoffs knowing that it will help us win games.”
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