Insider Reveals Lakers’ Cold-Blooded Move With Former Fan Favorite

Lakers Rumors

Getty The Lakers were willing to let Alex Caruso walk in free agency.

The Los Angeles Lakers made a big splash with their offseason moves, but unfortunately, this meant that the team was unable to keep several key players including Alex Caruso. More surprising than Caruso leaving in free agency was the Lakers apparent lack of interest in trying to make a deal work. The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported the Lakers declined to present Caruso with a counter-offer when the Bulls proposal was presented to the L.A. front office.

“I think it is still a tough look for the Lakers, and the way it went down was Alex, and this didn’t surprise me, I’d heard some stuff going into free agency that, for whatever reason, Alex was not feeling the love from the Lakers in terms of the communication and connectivity if you will, and so in that sense, it didn’t surprise me that he wasn’t back,” Amick explained on The Athletic NBA Show podcast. “But he gets the four-year, $37 million offer from the Bulls. They go back to the Lakers and there just was no interest in countering.”

The Lakers Opted Not to Counter the Bulls’ Offer to Caruso

The luxury tax played some role in the Lakers’ decision to let Caruso walk, but there likely was more to it than that. The Lakers were clearly not too concerned about the tax when they traded for Russell Westbrook knowing the team would have to go over the cap to fill out the majority of their roster.

“I haven’t gotten clarity from the Lakers side on how they saw Alex, but I think it’s safe to assume the tax number with his situation played a big part,” Amick added. “But still, there was a sense of disappointment without question on the Alex side about the fact that it wasn’t a push to, ‘what if we came in at 80% of that number?’ There was none of that back-and-forth. There was, I’m paraphrasing, but essentially just ‘good luck in Chicago’ type of feeling to it.”

The Lakers Are Facing a More Than $42 Million Luxury Tax Bill

Even without Caruso, the Lakers are already well above the salary cap. ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported the Lakers are slated to owe a $42.3 million luxury-tax bill, the largest in franchise history.

“Make that 13 players under contract with the vet minimum exception available,” Marks tweeted. “A strong 3 signings with Monk, THT and Nunn. $42.3M projected tax bill which would be the largest in Lakers history.”

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers were willing to pay Caruso an average annual salary of $7 million. Caruso landed a deal with the Bulls that pays him more $9 million a year.

“I think the Lakers looked at Alex Caruso and said, ‘We’re happy for you. We really appreciate everything you’ve done. We wish we could keep you,'” Shelburne explained on The Hoop Collective podcast. “He was willing to go back there at three years and $30 million. He actually gave them that option, even at the end. It’s less than what he signed for in Chicago, but even that was more than they were willing to go.

“…That’s as far as they were willing to go. The Lakers, they looked at Caruso and said, ‘We can go to $7 million a year but above that, it gets too cost-prohibitive.”

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