Perhaps most synonymous to their second-half collapse has been the plethora of injuries to plague the Los Angeles Lakers in recent weeks. The likes of LeBron James and Lonzo Ball have all missed significant time this season, with the latter still working his way back from a sprained ankle.
While James managed to recover from his significant groin injury, Ball is not particularly close to returning to the court and could ultimately be shut down for the year with the Lakers’ playoff hopes dwindling by the day.
One player to benefit from Ball’s lengthy absence is point guard Alex Caruso, who logged a season-high 29 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The 25-year-old was credited by Lakers head coach Luke Walton for providing a spark off the bench, as he registered 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with six rebounds and three assists.
Caruso also impressed on the defensive end, garnering praise from teammate Rajon Rondo. “He’s an underrated defender,” the veteran guard said. “He’s a really great on-ball defender, he has great hands.
“He’s a great point guard as far as a great mind. He understands the game and makes the right play every time.”
Caruso has a chip on his shoulder, hoping to stick in the NBA long-term. Rondo is under the impression that he belongs at the level. “Definitely agree he’s an NBA player,” Rondo added. “It’s about the right fit and right opportunity.”
Lakers head coach Luke Walton offered similar sentiments on Caruso belonging in the NBA. “Yeah, I do,” Walton said. “He’s tough, he’s smart, good size on him, is a good defender, works hard. I think he can make it.”
Caruso, with a team-first mentality, was happy to contribute but ultimately disappointed the Lakers couldn’t pull out a win over the Nuggets. “You want to win,” he said. “Biggest thing is we made the big comeback and then ran out of juice late.
“I was a little upset we didn’t finish the game off, but I was glad to get out there and get a run in. It felt good to be out on the Staples Center court again.”
“Different team this year, so circumstances change. I’ve just got to fit in to the role I was given this year. I think I’ve done that pretty well. Be a good teammate, help my guys whenever I’m not playing, and obviously like the other night when I got in, just play hard and do my job.
“Any time I get a chance to go out and play on an NBA court, in an NBA game, it’s an opportunity for me to showcase what I can do, the skills that I have and type of player that I am.”