With the re-start of the NBA season still not certain we take a pause to appreciate Alex Caruso and those that came before him
When you ask a non basketball fan to name a current Lakers player, they will no doubt answer LeBron James. Ask someone with a little more passion for the team and they may answer Anthony Davis. But, if you ask a Lakers fan to name a current player they may start with Alex Caruso.
Caruso’s rise as a legitimate NBA player is pretty remarkable. Most NBA players were stars of the College and High School teams. For those guys, the adjustment to being “just another player” can be a it jarring. Caruso didn’t really have to worry about that particular difficulty.
As a High School Senior he averaged 18 points and nine rebounds. Good numbers to be sure, but nothing spectacular. Those numbers and his play was good enough to earn him All-Regional and All-State acknowledgement. In fact, he was ranked as the No. 3 shooting guard in the state of Texas and No. 15 nationally by ESPN.com.
Caruso was not necessarily a star coming out of High School, but he was more than “just another player”.
Texas A&M took note and was happy to have the 6’5 guard. He played four seasons for the Aggies averaging 8.0 points, 4.7 assists and 2.02 steals per game. He left College Station as the school’s all-time leader in assists with 649 and steals with 276. Again, he showed he may not be a star, but he was definitely a talented player.
The only thing left to prove was could he be more than just another player at the next level.
He was undrafted in 2016, but he played with the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League. Later that year he signed with the OKC Thunder, but was waived a few weeks later. He spend the remainder of that basketball season playing for the Oklahoma City Blue which is part of what we now know as the G-League. He averaged 11.9 points, 5.2 assists and 2.1 steals.
Not a star, but…well, you get the idea.
In 2017 he joined the Los Angeles Lakers Summer League team. That was the start of the transition into the CaruSHOW. His averages in the 2017-18 season were 19 points, 7.8 assists and 2 steals. To top that off he shot almost 40% from three point range. The Lakers made him the very first player to sign with and NBA team directly from the then D-League via a two-way contract.
Caruso was here to stay!
Which really taps into why Lakers fans love this guy. As a Laker his averages are non-spectacular at 5.4 points, 1.8 assists and 1 steal in 17 minutes a game. I’m not a huge fan of adjusted minutes, but if you adjust Caruso over 36 minutes he comes in at 11 points, 3.6 assists, 3.6 steals.
It’s amazing to see that Caruso has essentially been contributing at basically the same level at HS, College and now the pros.
What makes Caruso even more incredible is that he has a bit of showman in him. He knows exactly how to energize the Staples Center crowd by adding a little passion to a dunk, or an exclamation to a steal. He is not a star, but he knows his place and he excels at his position in the times he is given on both ends of the court.
Caruso is the most current in a long line of role players Lakers fans have been blessed to enjoy. It’s almost unfair when you consider the All-Stars that have worn Purple & Gold. Arguably, the greatest announcer to ever call the game, did it for this franchise in Chick Hearn. The Lakers are used to having and being the best and in Caruso they now have one of the best non-stars in the Association. Caruso joins players like Shannon Brown, Xavier Henry, Sasha Vujacic, Devean George all the way back to Clay Johnson in the 80’s.
None of those players, like Caruso, was a star. All of them could be counted on to contribute when called on though. Each of them is a Lakers Great in his own more than “just another player” way.