Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel made it clear one of his main goals in the early stages of the NBA restart was to make certain players accustomed to performing bigger roles in the absence of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo.
Alex Caruso was among them, tasked with extra offensive responsibilities in addition to his already established defensive contribution. Caruso’s stats might suggest he is still adjusting to the new role.
The Texas A&M product averaged 5.5 points per game in the Orlando bubble, shooting just 32.3% from the field including an extremely poor 15.4% from behind the arc. However, he is among Lakers leaders in defensive and net ratings.
Caruso ended the 124-121 victory over the Denver Nuggets with a staggering +21 despite taking just one shot attempt, which he missed, in 20 minutes. But upon a closer look at his performances, Caruso passes the eye test as his cameos have often coincided with the Lakers bouncing back from a deficit, suggesting the team does play better with the versatile guard on the court.
And that seems to be enough to satisfy Vogel. “Shooting the ball poorly but playing extremely well. I expect him to play well. He’s one of those guys that tries to make the right play every time,” he said of Caruso’s play in a larger role.
Vogel believes Caruso’s shooting will improve similarly to his other Lakers teammates. The team’s collective field goal percentage was reaching mid-30s in the first seeding games — including 10% from deep against the Houston Rockets — but recovered in the last three matchups.
“Offensively, he’s left his feet a little too often for my liking in the first couple games, but he knows that and usually self corrects pretty easily,” Vogel added of Caruso. “He plays extremely hard and impacts the game on both ends of the floor.”
Rondo returns to NBA bubble
Caruso’s role could soon be impacted again as Rondo returned to the Orlando bubble after completing a portion of his rehab after thumb injury outside of the Walt Disney World campus. The 34-year-old entered the bubble on Thursday and hs to quarantine for four days, while testing negative for the coronavirus, before he can rejoin the team.
Rondo will initially support the Lakers from the sidelines with Vogel revealing he could be tasked with some coaching assignments. But he is expected to be back on the court at some point during the NBA Playoffs.
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