They traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook and signed Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore in free agency.
LeBron was a strong advocate for the trade that brought Westbrook to the Lakers. Unfortunately for the LakeShow, Westbrook has proven to be a poor fit next to LeBron and Anthony Davis. The one-time MVP leads the NBA in turnovers and has a plus-minus of -150.
While LeBron deserves blame for urging the Lakers to trade for Westbrook, the four-time MVP can’t be blamed for the franchise losing Alex Caruso, according to NBA insider Marc Stein.
“LeBron James was a strong advocate for the trade that brought Westbrook to Hollywood and thus has to wear his considerable slice of culpability for how poorly things are working out,” Stein reported. “Yet one source did point out at least one counter on James’ behalf, noting that he was also one of the organization’s staunchest Alex Caruso fans and badly wanted the Lakers to re-sign the defensive-minded guard.
“The Lakers, despite all of their considerable revenue streams, refused to offer a contract on par with the four-year, $37 million deal Caruso landed from Chicago because of the luxury-tax implications. The injuries that have limited Davis to 37 games have done the most damage to the Lakers’ 17th-ranked defense, but Caruso’s departure was another big hit.”
Caruso signed a four-year, $37 million deal with the Chicago Bulls in free agency. He won the 2020 championship with the Lakers over the Miami Heat and was a fan favorite in Los Angeles due to his hustle and elite defensive skills.
LeBron valued Caruso, but it appears the Lakers didn’t.
Lakers Low-Balled Caruso
Caruso revealed on The Old Man and the Three podcast that the Lakers offered him less than two years and $15 million in free agency. The Texas native gave LA an opportunity to match the Bulls’ offer, but the purple and gold chose not to.
“Essentially we got that offer, went back to LA, asked if they could do the same,” Caruso said on the podcast. “They said no. Asked for something else that was a little less, they said no. So I said, ‘OK if that’s what it comes to, I’m ready to go to Chicago and start the next chapter.’ It’s been great. I think it’s been a great decision for me.”
The Lakers are giving up 112.7 points per game this season. That’s 25th in the NBA. Their defense would be much better if Caruso was still on the team. The combo guard is averaging 1.9 steals for the Bulls and has a defensive rating of 109.2.
Chicago went 2-0 against Los Angeles this season. While Caruso didn’t light up the scoreboard, he did all of the little things LeBron and Co. miss.
Caruso Averaged 8.5 Points, 7.5 Rebounds & 3.5 Assists vs. Lakers
Caruso tallied a total of 17 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals against the Lakers this season. He finished with a plus-minus of 23.8 and shot 50.0% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc.
When the Bulls played the Lakers in Los Angeles, LeBron — who was out due to an abdominal strain — walked onto the court and hugged Caruso while fans stood and cheered for him and that gesture meant a lot to the current Bulls star.
“When you’re chasing a championship together, there’s a special bond that you create going through adversity, finding your way together,” Caruso told Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports. “Just the admiration I have for him as a player, as a person, for him to show me that love just doubles down on the relationship we have.”
The Lakers have struggled on defense this season sans Caruso, while the Bulls have benefited from his presence, giving up only 110.9 points per game.