Execs Rip Lakers for FA Move: ‘I’m Not Sure What They Were Thinking’

alex caruso

Getty Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso.

When Alex Caruso came onto the scene with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017, he quickly became a fan favorite due to his appearance and penchant for flashy dunks. However, it quickly became apparent that he could actually play and was much more than a novelty. He ended up becoming a top player for the Lakers and an important piece during 2020’s championship run.

Caruso hit free agency in the offseason and it didn’t appear like there was any chance Los Angeles was going to let him go. He had a great relationship with LeBron James and the two played extremely well together. Once free agency started, the Lakers made a flurry of moves but didn’t end up bringing back Caruso. He signed a four-year deal worth $37 million with the Chicago Bulls and has already become a massive fan favorite for their fan base. Caruso goes viral quite often for his impressive defensive plays, which the Lakers need a lot of defensive help right.

Current and former executives around the NBA couldn’t believe Los Angeles didn’t re-sign him.

“The Lakers boffed that one,” an Eastern Conference executive told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. “I’m not sure what they were thinking.”

Obviously, Caruso isn’t a superstar-level player but he does a lot of the dirty work.

“Caruso may not be super-talented [offensively] with the basketball, but he has a high IQ for all the little things and is obviously a stud defender,” a Western Conference executive told Pincus.

Kurt Rambis used to play for the Lakers and is now the team’s director of basketball affairs. One executive thought that he would be the one to ensure that Caruso stayed in Los Angeles.

“I don’t understand why Kurt Rambis, of all people, let Caruso leave,” the Eastern Conference executive told Pincus. “Rambis was the Caruso of the Showtime Lakers.”

In the early stages of the season, it’s obvious that the Lakers made a mistake by letting Caruso leave. How big the mistake was will be more apparent as the season goes on.

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Former GM Questions if Lakers Have Enough Defensive Stoppers

Last season, the Lakers led the entire NBA in defensive rating despite the fact that Anthony Davis missed much of the year. In the offseason, the team moved on from a number of their best defensive stoppers in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dennis Schroder and Caruso. So far this season, the team is ranked 15th in defensive rating. A former general manager questioned if the Lakers have enough defensive stoppers to play well this year.

“[Trevor] Ariza is older. He won’t be in shape when he comes back from a leg-related injury,” the former general manager told Pincus. “Horton-Tucker has never been that, a defensive stopper. At least Nunn comes from the Miami Heat system. If you don’t defend in Miami, you don’t play.”

Ariza should still be able to play effective defense and Talen Horton-Tucker could take a leap on that side of the court this year. Kendrick Nunn, Horton-Tucker and Ariza haven’t played a game for the Lakers this season but all could impact the defense when they return.

Frank Vogel Is in a Tough Spot

Head coach Frank Vogel has built up a reputation as one of the top defensive minds in the NBA. Even he can’t figure out how to get the defense to play well with this current roster. One executive suggested that general manager Rob Pelinka is more to blame for the struggles than Vogel.

“I don’t know how [Coach Frank] Vogel is supposed to get this team to defend after Rob [Pelinka] let Caruso and [Caldwell-Pope] go,” the Western Conference executive told Pincus.

If anybody is going to figure out how to get the Lakers to play defense at a high level, it would be Vogel. It’s a long season and he’s got plenty of time to make the proper adjustments as the team continues to get healthy.

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