Alex Caruso's "Carushow": From cult favorite to impact player for the Los Angeles Lakers
In the second half of last season, when the Lakers were eliminated from playoff contention and had shut down multiple players for the season due to injury, Caruso finally got a chance to play regular rotation minutes. He had several standout games, including a 32-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist effort (and 5 threes) against the Los Angeles Clippers. He already had a cult following among Lakers fans, and it continued to build with his play down the stretch.
Caruso’s late-season emergence helped to earn him a 2-year, $5.5 million contract from the Lakers last summer. If you look at Alex Caruso’s statistics so far this season, they don’t jump at you initially. He averages 4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 17.7 minutes, on 37.5% from the field and 25.0% from 3-point range. But stats don’t always tell the whole story about a game or a player.
Caruso’s defensive ability is evident with his 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks. Along with Dwight Howard, his insertion into the game off the bench often changes the complexion of the matchup defensively. Head coach Frank Vogel also trusts him as a facilitator, playing him for long stretches, especially in the second half. He played a key role in the Lakers’ comeback victories against the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls.
A fact about Caruso that is unexpected among casual fans is his athleticism. At first glance, with his balding hairline, and wiry (but strong) 6-foot-5, 186-pound frame, the 25-year-old Caruso does not look like the typical athlete. But he has caught opponents by surprise, including Kevin Durant and the Warriors last season. Caruso has already had a few spectacular dunks this season, including an explosive one against Mavericks power forward Maxi Kleber in the 4th. That dunk turned out to be a momentum changer in the game.
Perhaps opponents are getting the message about Caruso’s athletic ability. On Friday, in the Lakers’ victory against the Heat, forward James Johnson moved out of the way on Friday as Caruso was flying down the lane and flushed it down with two hands.
Caruso has quick hands and moves his feet well laterally on defense. He also knows how to play the passing lane. Caruso also is well respected among teammates and coaches for his willingness to sacrifice his body by drawing charges and diving for loose balls. His infectious energy on both ends has been dubbed as the “Carushow”, and it is a hit with the team, and fans in Lakers Nation that are home, away, and abroad.
After not playing on opening night against the Clippers, Caruso has come off the bench as the backup shooting guard and point guard, and it will be interesting to see how his playing time will be affected by the impending return of Rajon Rondo.
Avery Bradley is still the starting point guard (though LeBron really handles those duties), and Quinn Cook has been streaky but effective off the bench as a backup. But it cannot be ignored that the Lakers are 7-0 when Caruso plays (seven in a row since opening night) and that he has shown that he will be ready to play and give maximum effort when called upon.