SAN FRANCISCO — Having worked himself into one of the league’s premier role players after going undrafted out of Texas A&M, Alex Caruso recently revealed that the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t exactly work hard to retain him this past offseason, leaving him essentially no choice but to sign a four-year, $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls.
So far he’s has earned every penny of that contract, and then some, for the 8-4 Bulls. In addition to Chicago fans, one person happy that Caruso no longer plays for the Lakers is Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
The Warriors used a huge third-quarter run to throttle the Bulls on Friday night, 119-93, in Chicago’s first game this season without All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. But before the game, Kerr showered Caruso with praise when asked about his defense, particularly against Steph Curry.
“Caruso’s great. I was really happy to see him go to the Eastern Conference,” Kerr said. “He’s an excellent defender on and off the ball — tough, smart. Great pickup for the Bulls.”
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Our Brad Botkin went into detail about how Caruso has been wreaking havoc on the defensive end so far this season, particularly when paired with Lonzo Ball. NBA matchup data is essentially useless when it comes to Curry, because his off-ball movement necessitates constant defensive switches that defy one-on-one battles, but the eye test shows that Caruso at least gives Curry a hard time, which is all you can really ask against one of the best offensive weapons of all time.
Here’s an example from Friday night, when Curry was attempting to create the last shot of the first quarter for the Warriors. Caruso pokes the ball away from him not once, but twice, eventually sending the ball out of bounds.
Skeptics will be quick to point out that Curry finished the game with 40 points on 15-for-24 shooting and 9-for-17 3-pointers, but, as noted before, defending Curry requires nearly flawless defensive execution for the entire team, and can’t be put on the shoulders of a single defender.
In the two regular-season games in which Caruso played against the Warriors last season, the Lakers held Curry to 13-for-35 shooting and 5-for-19 from 3-point range with seven turnovers. In the game Caruso didn’t play, Curry went 9-for-17 from the field and 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Small sample size, yes, but Kerr’s comments certainly suggest that Caruso gives Curry and the Warriors a hard time.
Luckily for Kerr, Golden State only has to face Caruso once more this season, unless the Bulls and Warriors meet in the NBA Finals.