Alex Caruso has tweeted out more than a comment or two regarding the sports and teams he follows and supports. The former Texas A&M basketball star who grew up in College Station and has made his mark recently with the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t mince words when expressing his feelings about current events in the sports world.
Being center stage on social media for others to praise, scrutinize or just have a little fun with, though, has taken a little adjustment. It is something he’s learning to enjoy just as much as if he was the one creating the posts.
“My Twitter feed is going crazy.” Caruso said. “It’s like a cult following. The same thing as at A&M, Laker fans are die-hard, and they took to me. It’s definitely fun, something I’m trying to get used to.”
Caruso’s gritty, all-around style of play and his effectiveness late in his second NBA season has brought on much of the attention, but there were two incidents that took the attention he’s received to another level.
Of course, when LeBron James is the co-star of those moments, one is likely to receive a lot more notice.
Caruso’s follow dunk over Kevin Durant on a missed Rajon Rondo shot has been viewed over and over as much for the athleticism the 6-foot-5 Caruso showed as the reaction of disbelief and amazement it got from James, who was in street clothes on the bench.
There also was the night James passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list and Caruso, who was on the floor at the time, was the first to congratulate him. Social media had a lot of fun with memes portraying James as having no idea who Caruso was.
“To be honest, most of the memes I enjoy. Not many of them someone sends me I don’t laugh at myself,” Caruso said. “I don’t have to find them because we have group texts, Laker groups like in college, and they text and throw jabs when they find stuff online.”
Caruso’s favorite was the dunk, primarily because of the story behind it.
“The funny thing is the dunk was the perfect combination of the Warriors and LeBron’s reaction,” Caruso said. “Nobody realizes how bad I was playing. I think I was 0 for 6, and we were down big and now no one remembers.”
More recently, Caruso has been paying attention to social media because at times, even though the Lakers’ season ended early, they have been dominating the NBA news with front office turnover, coaching changes and roster announcements, both actual transactions and those in the rumor mill.
“It’s been a hectic time,” Caruso said. “That’s par for the course in LA.”
Caruso had to pay special attention after Toronto won the NBA title because the Lakers were wooing Raptors free agent superstar Kawhi Leonard. When Leonard chose the Clippers, the Lakers went to work to secure the players they wanted to play around James and incoming all-star big man Anthony Davis.
Caruso, who had been on a two-way contract the past two seasons and was a restricted free agent, signed a two-year deal worth $5.5 million in early July. The money obviously is something that can’t be overlooked, but there is more to it for Caruso.
He will be with the Lakers for 82 games, rather than going back and forth from the South Bay Lakers of the NBA’s G-League to the parent-team Lakers. He also didn’t have to play in the Las Vegas Summer League for the first time since leaving Texas A&M in 2016 and signing with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I’ve been assured an opportunity to get minutes, and I think I complement this team very well, but obviously, nothing is given to you,” Caruso said. “It will be a fun test for me to see how I adjust to playing 82 games. I think I will still be going off of adrenaline.”
Caruso could play either guard position but is likely to battle Quinn Cook and veteran Rondo, both of whom also have two-year contracts, at point guard. There also is talk of James running the point under new Laker coach Frank Vogel.
With Davis teaming with James, many prognosticators have the Lakers as the favorites to win the NBA title this season despite not having reached the playoffs since 2013.
The Lakers’ struggles, especially in the second half, gave Caruso the opportunity to show he could contribute consistently in the NBA. After averaging 14 points and six assists per game in the G-League, Caruso played in the Lakers’ final 19 games, starting the last four when he averaged 40 minutes a game. He scored double-digit points in 11 of the games, with a high of 32 against the Clippers in his second start. In his final two games, he totaled 24 assists. Perhaps most importantly, he shot 48 percent from behind the 3-point line for the season, which was a knock against him in college and early in his pro career.
“Yes, 100 percent, if Lonzo [Ball] and [Brandon] Ingram weren’t injured a couple of things wouldn’t have gone my way,” Caruso said. “If Luke Walton was not my coach, [I might not have got the opportunity]. I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason.”
Ball, Ingram and Walton are no longer Lakers. Ball and Ingram were traded, along with draft picks, for Davis, and Walton was fired.
“With Lebron James and Anthony Davis, you are going to have a good shot to win,” Caruso said. “If you’re not rebuilding, the goal is to win a championship.”
NOTES — Caruso is hosting a basketball camp at Allen Academy on Monday through Wednesday. Second through fifth graders’ session will run from 9 a.m. to noon and sixth through eighth grade will run from 12:30-3 p.m. Cost is $150. Caruso, who said camps bring back some of his fondest basketball memories, is pleased with the the volume of applicants he’s received but said there is still room for more. … One of the things Caruso said he enjoys most about the NBA is meeting up with former A&M teammates Danuel House and Jalen Jones, who both have played in the G-League and the NBA.