With the Los Angeles Lakers off to a slow start, questions of “what if?” linger when it comes to the team’s opportunity to retain Alex Caruso last offseason. While it was reported out of the Lakers camp that they were “aggressive” in trying to keep Caruso before he signed a four-year $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls, Caruso elaborated on what happened during free agency on JJ Redick’s The Old Man & The Three podcast.
“Going into it, I really didn’t know what to expect and I really didn’t hear much from any team—including the Lakers—leading up to 6 p.m., and then they called, and the Lakers made their offer. It wasn’t an offer I was going to accept because I was going to be able to get considerably more money from another team,” he said.
He adds: “I got on the phone with AK [Bulls GM Artūras Karnišovas] and Billy [Donovan], and the way they were just talking about how they wanted to play and how they saw me as a player, I thought they hit the nail on the head. I thought everything they said, I was like ‘I think that’s accurate, I think that’s what I bring to the table, I think that’s how I can help the team win, I think that’s the direction this team wants to go.’ I thought there was a need for the stuff that I had.”
Our guy Alex Caruso (@ACFresh21) on what exactly happened In free agency that led him to The Chicago Bulls.— TheOldMan&TheThree (@OldManAndThree) November 10, 2021
Full episode w/ Alex drops tomorrow. Subscribe here: https://t.co/3wGZq3EszW pic.twitter.com/U7EqsAgz9q
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, it was a matter of finances:
“With a team payroll of roughly $156.2 million, the Lakers project to pay about $43.7 million in luxury taxes. Caruso, who had hoped to stay with Los Angeles, is earning $8.6 million this season in Chicago.
The Lakers could have matched the four-year, $37 million contract that he signed with the Bulls, but their payroll would have ballooned to about $233 million with tax.”
In August, Alex Caruso was questioned about his feelings of not being re-signed with the Lakers via Yahoo! Sports.
“I have a great relationship with the Laker community just because my path and progression as a player is something they got to witness first-hand. I’ll always have a special relationship with that fan base. I know a lot of people were upset that I didn’t get to stick around and try and run it back for a couple more years,” Caruso said then. “As far as the front office and free agency, that stuff just kind of happens. It’s the business of basketball. You can’t always keep who you want or else there’d be a whole bunch of good teams with a whole bunch of good players and nobody else would win. I’m happy that I fell to Chicago.”