The Los Angeles Lakers might have caught a break.
The Chicago Bulls announced Zach LaVine will miss another 3-4 weeks with foot inflammation. If the Lakers truly want to make an offer for the two-time All-Star, this new timeline works well with their own.
“All I can say is … they’ve been hesitant to [trade Caruso] to this point,” wrote NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on December 6. “Caruso is arguably this regime’s greatest success story and he is the perfect embodiment of the culture the franchise wants to project. Trading him would be painful for this management team; I can assure you that.”
The Lakers know that pain.
Caruso entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League affiliate. But he broke through with the Lakers, becoming a fan favorite and helping the franchise hang its 17th championship banner.
The two sides could not come to terms on a new contract when Caruso hit free agency, though, and he signed a four-year, $36.9 million contract with the Bulls in 2021.
“AC, he’s the one that got away,” The Athletic’s Jovan Buha said on the “Hoops Tonight” podcast on November 28. “It still bothers them inside the organization. It’s still a very divisive topic in terms of his departure and why that happened, and who’s to blame, and it’s just kind of a thorny situation still.”
Caruso, 29, made a career-high 67 appearances en route to All-Defensive honors last season.
This season, he is averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while knocking down 47.8% of his three-pointers. The points and efficiency from beyond the arc are both career-high marks.
The Bulls’ are on a three-game winning streak. And that has quieted some of the trade rumors. Caruso could still be a casualty of other deals, though.
Buha noted the Lakers’ interest in LaVine is real. But added that they would prefer to land Caruso and 2021 free-agent target DeMar DeRozan. But, in light of Johnson’s report that the Bulls’ main focus of trading LaVine could prevent other moves, acquiring the high-flyer might be easier.
Lakers Trade Target Could Be Package Deal
“There’s … a scenario in which, in order to trade LaVine, Caruso may have to be included,” Johnson wrote in his mailbag on December 6. “But Caruso is arguably this regime’s greatest success story and he is the perfect embodiment of the culture the franchise wants to project. Trading him would be painful for this management team; I can assure you that.”
It is unclear how realistic of an option that is. But LaVine’s value isn’t going up while the team wins with him on the sidelines.
LaVine, 28, is in the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract. He is also sidelined with a foot injury and was not playing well before he went down. The Bulls have also rattled off three straight wins without him. They have a chance to notch a few more before he can return too.
The Lakers are taking a patient approach.
Lakers Eyeing ‘Fire Sale’ Scenarios
The Bulls and Lakers have experienced a change in their fortunes of late of fortune. That is true for the latter more so than the former.
Perhaps that puts them even more in line to work together. The February trade deadline is only drawing closer.