Alex Caruso keeps a count of the number of days he played with the Lakers in his notes folder on his phone. There is an expiration date on your time in the NBA. In a two-way contract, he can play 45 days with the Lakers and must spend the rest of his time with the South Bay Lakers, the affiliate of the team's development league.
With the Lakers lacking in guards, he has been receiving a lot of opportunity and is using it to justify his decision that he should stay.
"I only have 45 days, so I have to make the most of them," said Caruso. "To get opportunities like this is what the boys in my position live in. I'm happy to be starting to play a little loose, a bit free and playing with the energy that I normally play with."
On Sunday afternoon, the Lakers defeated the New York Knicks 127-107 with a dominant second half out of the first minutes of the third quarter, despite playing without their two starting guard. Jordan Clarkson recorded his second consecutive productive offensive game, scoring 29 points with 10 assists. Julius Randle also contributed a double double, scoring 27 points with 12 rebounds. The victory allowed the Lakers to improve to 17-29.
Caruso scored nine points, his personal record with eight assists and four rebounds on Sunday afternoon. It was part of a unit that Lakers coach Luke Walton relied on critical minutes during the game.
"I'm super happy to have it and I hope we'll keep it," said Larry Nance Jr. "The role may not be seen, but that's an NBA player." There are no doubts in my mind. It does not move us. We have seen it in practice; we've seen it in the training camp. Seeing him in the game is no surprise. "
The Lakers had a four-point lead at halftime, but Walton did not like the way they played defense, his message during the break was entirely on defense. 19659002] The Knicks made five triples in the first half of the third quarter and took a six-point lead over the Lakers, during which Walton eliminated all of his starting lineup and replaced them with Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer, Nance and Clarkson
"During our winning streak at home, we've been really good defensively," said Walton. "… I was looking for a group that was willing to play that kind of defense. … We have a group there committed to that end of the floor. And then we stayed with them because they were playing hard and playing the right way. "
The defense is part of what Walton likes about Caruso, it's also what Clarkson remembers about facing Caruso when the two were in Caruso played in Texas A & M while Clarkson played in Missouri.
"I used to hate playing against AC in college," Clarkson said. "One of those pesky guys getting into the defensive. Make people participate. It's good that we have it in the squad. "
Caruso said:" Now he has improved his shot a lot better than he was back then, so we used to try to force him to some hard and threes, but me and JC have had a couple of battles in the days of A & M / Missouri. "
Walton has talked to Caruso about becoming a better shooter, but appreciates the size he brings to the game.
" He's a very smart player, he's tough, he's a defensive end and he's done a good job. when playing with [Clarkson] because it allows JC to get a little out of the ball, "Walton said." Or we will play JC for long minutes and many teams will bombard JC all over the court and try to pick him up completely and he has made a Great work by giving us some mix. And we've been a big fan of him, at least since I met him in the summer league. "
With starting point guard Lonzo Ball ready for the foreseeable future, Caruso's opportunity has risen.The Lakers are starting Tyler Ennis, and Walton does not expect that to change, but he played against Caruso for 30 minutes on Sunday.
"In the last two games, I think he has really changed his thinking," Walton said. "And the aggression towards him. It does not mean that I'm going to score all the time. It just means that he's getting into the paint and playing the game right and defensively maybe taking a couple more risks, but [Caruso and Clarkson] have really been a good combo together. "
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