After spending the last couple of seasons on a two-way deal, Alex Caruso inked a multi-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Caruso, who is represented by agent Greg Lawrence of Wasserman, signed a two-year deal worth $5.5 million with the Lakers on July 7. Last season, the 25-year-old guard averaged 9.2 points while shooting 48.0 percent from three-point range. As we wrote back in April, he thrived on his catch-and-shoot attempts and three-pointers from above the arc.
He spoke to HoopsHype about the wild offseason as well as his upcoming goals and aspirations for the 2019-20 campaign.
How has the transition been now that you’re back with the team after a wild offseason?
Alex Caruso: It’s been really good. I don’t know if people are aware of this but during the summer guys have families and they have lives away from the game so they go home. It’s good to get everybody together and just bond and get to know everybody on a more personal level rather than you would just showing up to the gym for a couple hours, working out and going home. So it’s been good to start hanging out with everybody and get to know each other as a team.
What does that look like for you when you’re not playing basketball?
AC: I’m pretty low maintenance. I like to hang out, work out and go back to Texas. I went back home to College Station and saw my buddies and just stayed out of the way. I don’t need much to keep me happy. I like to relax and step away from it all because during the season it’s full speed ahead. For me to now play 82 games will be interesting after the two-way deal that I had. So it was nice to get away and take a deep breath and relax a little bit.
How you were able to maximize your opportunity on a two-way deal to get to where you are today?
AC: The two-way deal is one of the best things that has happened to me in my basketball career. The idea behind it when it first started was to give guys experience of the NBA game and then also give them the capability of going down to the G League and fine-tuning stuff and that’s exactly what I did. I needed to work on being a little more aggressive, work off the ball and run the team a little bit more. So to be able to have the G League and also have the opportunity to just get used to the speed of the NBA game. I learned all the differences in the dynamics of NBA basketball, which is a ton compared to anything I’d ever played. Being able to go back-and-forth was a lot of work and it was really tough and it was a lot of long road trips and travel. But it was really beneficial for me to have that opportunity. I tried to be as present as possible and play really hard. That’s something that I’ve done my whole career. I’ve patterned my game off of it and it’s worked out for me really well.
What’s the impression you have so far now that you have been with the group? There’s a lot of new faces and you are no longer on a two-way.
AC: I think – actually I don’t think, I know – we’re going to have a really deep team. We’ve got solid players one through 15 and that’s going to be good for us to have to compete for time and for minutes. That will bring out the best in everybody and ultimately get us to the goal and that is to win. So I think it has been really good for us. It’s exciting to finally get to see all these guys I’ve played against or watched on TV and to have them all in the gym and start feeling each other’s games out. It’s been really good just to learn about each other.
Have there been any moments or interesting anecdotes that pop out that illustrate what the experience has been like with the team so far?
AC: There is not a specific instance, just looking at our team. I’ve noticed that from top to bottom, we have experience. Obviously, the head of our snake is LeBron James and he’s been and there done that. He knows how things are supposed to go and supposed to run so it’s easy to follow his lead. We’ve got young guys like Anthony Davis, Troy Daniels and even Avery Bradley is on the younger side. So we have the youth to mix in with our veteran guys who have been around the block and know what to do and know everything. So I don’t know if there’s one “aha” moment but I can just tell by the pieces we have and the different qualities that everybody brings: we are going to have a good team.
How would you describe the experience of your rise to a full contract in the NBA?
AC: I was just a fan as a kid. I was the guy on Twitter keeping up with the NBA players. Now to be one of them is pretty surreal and so rewarding. The whole social media aspect of it is crazy, too. It just gives everyone more access than ever before to their favorite player or whatever’s trending on Twitter. Sometimes, in the last few months, that has just happened to be me. It’s been interesting and I have a lot of fun with it. I don’t read into it, though, because Twitter and Instagram are a fantasy world. But it’s brought me some good laughs.
Was LeBron one of your favorite players growing up? What are your impressions of him?
AC: Growing up as a kid, Bron was the guy. He was nicknamed “The Chosen One” and for good reason,. The dude’s a good basketball player and he’s fun to watch. He was right in that era of guys when I started watching NBA basketball like D-Wade, Dirk and the Spurs teams that were so good for so long. Growing up then and now being able to be teammates with him is really cool. It’s another surreal moment that I get to enjoy and hopefully make the most of it. It’s one thing just to be on the team. But it’s another thing to go out there and actually compete with the guy and win some games. That’s the ultimate goal: win and play well. It’s going to make for great stories whenever I get older and have a family and kids and buddies and talk about the good ol’ days. For me, the good ol’ days will be playing with one of the best ever.
How will your skills as a catch-and-shoot player fit next to LeBron now that you may be playing alongside him more often?
AC: With LeBron, it’s pretty easy. He’s such a good passer. That’s probably his most underrated skill that people forget about because he’s such a dominant, physical presence and he can score the ball so well. He’s really one of the most elite passers in the game. I know any time he’s got the ball, the ball might be thrown to me so I have to be ready. I think it’s a mix of putting the time in the gym and just being confident and knowing when I will be getting shots. I have to always be ready to shoot. The goal for this year is just to build off the success I had. There was nothing special about last year that I did. There was no crazy secret. I just got shots up in the gym and whenever the game came, I got in the right spots and was ready to shoot. With the addition of guys like AD, who is going to draw more attention, I need to be confident and step it up and shoot it in rhythm. That’s really the key to having success with it.
As you’ve said, you’ve shown some of the flashes already. Did anything feel different during the big games against the Clippers and Pelicans?
AC: Towards the end of last year, I got really comfortable and I opened up a bit. When it was the right time to be aggressive, I got a little hot and had some big games. I think that’s what the NBA is about. I’m not going to have 30 points every night. I’m not going to have 24 points and make five threes every night. But those are the nights I needed to be aggressive and step up for my team. During the other nights, I need to be efficient even if it’s a 4-point performance. I have to make sure I go out there and get a couple of steals, play some good defense, make sure I’m facilitating the basketball and getting guys open. I think for me, my goal this year is to find my role on any certain night and just be really, really good at it.
Do you put much emphasis on your efficiency on certain looks?
AC: I’m not a huge analytical guy. I look at stuff and I understand it. But for me, the game is all about the feel at the end of the day. It’s making reads, making split-second decisions. I need to learn from the previous play or learn a tendency of somebody. For me, it’s not too much: ‘Oh I shot really well, I’m going to shoot more of those.’ It’s just about finding the best shot each possession. If that’s me taking a shot, that’s it. If it’s about giving the ball to somebody else or setting a screen for one of my guards, then that’s what I’m going to do.
With the increased exposure and pressure, what will you be able to do to rise to the challenge?
AC: I think the off-court stuff for me is really easy to deal with. I just don’t pay attention to stuff like that and it really doesn’t concern me. I don’t worry about the stuff that doesn’t impact me. As far as basketball goes, it’s kind of like a 180. I’m really calm and laid back when I’m away from basketball. But when I’m on the court, I’m hyper-focused, intense and competitive. I have the highest expectations for myself and I think if I hold myself accountable to whatever I expect of myself, then anything else will be possible.