The NBA has begun its final countdown to the season’s start at Walt Disney World on Thursday following a four-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
And while the mix of uncertainty and excitement in and around the Orlando bubble renders it more difficult than ever to make any basketball-related predictions, the one certain thing seems to be Alex Caruso’s readiness to embrace his shifting role with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Caruso impressed with his defensive prowess and contagious energy before the games stopped on March 14. But with fellow guards Avery Bradley opting out of the NBA restart and Rajon Rondo sidelined with a broken thumb, the Texas A&M alum will now have to take on more playmaking responsibilities.
The versatile Caruso knows his role will be different every game, depending on where the team’s needs lie against different opponents. But he is comfortable with making adjustments to his game and playing the part of head coach Frank Vogel’s X-factor.
“Game by game, what’s needed is kind of different for me. Some games it’s 15 minutes and playing really good defense. Other games it’s running the point, distributing and being aggressive offensively,” Caruso said following the Lakers’ 123-116 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday in the team’s third and last scrimmage.
“My role game by game is kind of different. Depending on matchups, depending on how we’re playing, how other teams defend us. I’m asked to do different things, guard different people, play different minutes. I’ve kind of been practicing for that role this whole year. Rondo has been out at times, so I played a little more point.
“There’s nothing that I’m not prepared for. That might be naive confidence in myself, but as a basketball player, if you’re playing at the highest level, that’s the kind of mindset you have to have.”
‘I got a little winded’
While LeBron James and Anthony Davis watched the victory over the Wizards from the bench, Caruso scored 17 points, a significant increase compared to the 5.4 he averaged this season. He also dished out six assists and added five rebounds, all the while battling some fatigue.
“I got a little winded tonight by just playing almost nine-minute stretches. That’s the longest I’ve played all year coming off the break,” Caruso said.
“Nothing that I can’t handle, but I played 12 minutes the other night and didn’t play the first game, so this was my first real scrimmage. I got a little winded but found my second wind during free throws and stuff like that.”
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