Alex Caruso is a fan-favorite in Los Angeles, but his time wearing purple and gold with the Lakers might be over following the team’s blockbuster trade for Russell Westbrook on Thursday.
Caruso is an unrestricted free agent and is expected to have a decent market thanks to his stingy defense and strong basketball IQ. Caruso just wrapped up a two-year, $5.5 million contract, but is expected to get a significant raise in free agency. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported Caruso could land an annual salary of around $12 million annually as a free agent.
With the Lakers now on a strict budget with Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis eating up more than $120 million of cap space, they may not be able to bring him back next season. And it sounds like some people in the Lakers’ building might not be in favor of that anyway, per CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter.
“I’m told by the source that this could be the end of the Alex Caruso era in Los Angeles. Not everyone in that Lakers organization is as enamored with Caruso as some of the other folks that sit in the stands and cheer him on. With Westbrook there now, he obviously could be superfluous.”
Alex Caruso Turned Into Viral Celebrity With Lakers
While the numbers don’t necessarily show it, Caruso played a key role off the bench for the Lakers, averaging 6.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He garnering NBA All-Defensive Team votes with the Lakers finishing with the league’s top-ranked defense.
With his gritty play and surprising athleticism, Caruso quickly became a fan-favorite in Los Angeles, with nearly everything he did become a viral hit. He even earned the nickname “GOAT” — aka greatest of all-time — from James, along with other monikers like “Bald Mamba.” Caruso understands his rise into the spotlight would not have happen in another market, but being a teammate of James and Davis in Los Angeles as part of a title contender allows certain opportunities.
“Anytime you play with those two, you have a realistic chance to win a championship. I know a lot of people around the league think they do,” Caruso said. “But it’s a realistic, attainable goal with those two guys on your team, so that’s always in the back of your mind.
“I understand different things happen in L.A. for certain reasons. I’m forever grateful for that, and we’ll see where everything lies.”
Alex Caruso Ran Into Trouble This Offseason
Caruso made headlines earlier this offseason when after he was arrested in Texas and charged with marijuana possession.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that “Lieutenant Bobby Richardson of the Texas A&M Police Department told ESPN that around 2 p.m. local time, Caruso tried to board a flight, where TSA agents searched Caruso’s bags and found a herb grinder that contained marijuana.”
Caruso has not talked about the incident but James did weigh in with a lighthearted tweet.
Obviously, James likes Caruso and what he brings to the table, so perhaps “The King” can find a way for him to return for another run at a title.