In just a few seasons, Lakers guard Alex Caruso went from an undrafted G-League baller to a big rotational piece for the defending NBA Champions.
And while Caruso has become a fan favorite in the NBA community, things didn’t start out that way for him. After four years at Texas A&M, and going undrafted in the 2016 draft, he joined the G-League with hopes to make it into the NBA. When he finally did get the opportunity to meet the Lakers coaching staff in 2017, they weren’t exactly sold on his abilities.
Caruso’s road to the sweet life was a winding one. He spent a year in the minors with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s affiliate, who would rarely advertise their games so as not to compete with the big club. His parents, Mike and Jackie, would drive six hours to watch him play in a gym that had bounce houses to entertain kids. One of his road games took place at the same facility where his agent Greg Lawrence was playing in a beer hockey league. (Caruso stuck around for the hockey; he remembers both of their teams won.)
Then in 2017 Nick Mazzella, the general manager of the South Bay Lakers, was at the league’s Elite Mini Camp in Chicago with South Bay president Joey Buss when Caruso caught their eye. “I know if you see Alex on the street you’re not like, This guy must play basketball,” says Mazzella. “But he was just bodying up everybody, defending really well. He had some phenomenal finishes at the rim and then a chase-down block. He really stood out.”
After the Chicago camp Mazzella persuaded Lawrence to have his client join the Lakers’ 2017 Summer League team in Las Vegas. When Caruso first met the Lakers’ coaching staff, they largely had the same reaction as most everyone else. “At the Summer League first practice, one of the coaches called me over and said, ‘Who gave the UPS guy a jersey?’ ” says Mazzella.
Caruso doesn’t look like your typical NBA player — and he also doesn’t act like one either.
But what Caruso lacks in basic appearance, he makes up for with his energy and play on the basketball court. His selflessness and hard-working mentality have helped shape him into being a true team player, and the Lakers have not failed to notice.
From humble beginnings to a glorious tenure with the Lakeshow, it’s easy to see why Caruso has earned so much respect from fans. No doubt, he will continue to be a huge part of the team going forward.