Jordan Clarkson provided another spark off the bench and Julius Randle notched a double-double in a victory against the New York Knicks, but not to be overlooked were the contributions Alex Caruso made in a career-high 31 minutes.
Tyler Ennis received another start in place of the injured Lonzo Ball, but his effectiveness was largely limited to the first quarter. When the Lakers struggled out of halftime, Caruso was among the five substitutions head coach Luke Walton quickly made as he looked to reverse the tide.
Caruso finished with nine points and eight assists, both of which were career-best marks, to go along with four rebounds and one steal.
“We’ve been a big fan of his, at least I have since I met him for Summer League,” Walton said. “And I feel like he hasn’t been as aggressive when he’s had his opportunities with us. The last two games, I think he’s really changed his mindset.”
Caruso admitted to at times being consumed by pressing to avoid making mistakes. For a player on a two-way contract, that’s certainly understandable. The parameters of such a contract limit a player to 45 days with the NBA team.
“I’m keeping track. I’ve got to make the most of them,” Caruso said. “Getting opportunities like this is what guys in my position live for. I’m getting better in each game, just getting acclimated to it and getting comfortable. I think that’s starting to show.”
Injuries to Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Ingram opened a window for Caruso in the past two games. That he’s not limited to playing point guard has furthered his cause.
“He’s got great size. He’s tough, so he can guard multiple positions in a modern NBA where a lot of teams switch everything,” Walton said.
By Caruso’s calculations, he’s just over halfway through his allotted time with the Lakers. A return to South Bay, whenever it comes, means adjusting back to being a leader. It’s a stark contrast to Caruso’s role with the big club.
“Whenever I’m up with this team it’s finding my niche and getting comfortable with that. When I’m with the South Bay team it’s a little different, it’s a little more leadership,” he said.
“Getting comfortable and being efficient with those two roles is the biggest thing. I think it’s about balancing the two roles that I have with the two teams.”
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