Top Longtime Lakers Trade Target Finally Dealt—to Knicks

The Lakers once offered the Pistons Alex Caruso, right, for guard Derrick Rose, left.

Getty The Lakers once offered the Pistons Alex Caruso, right, for guard Derrick Rose, left.

A year ago, his was the name most often bandied about when it came to the Lakers and NBA trade chatter. But he resisted being dealt out of Detroit back then and now, a year later, Derrick Rose is finally on the move—not to L.A., but instead to the Knicks.

Far from the asking price of a first-round pick and a player that the Pistons were seeking last year for Rose, he wound up fetching only little-used Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick, which the Knicks will send to Detroit via Charlotte. The move will reunite Rose with coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached him in both Chicago and Minnesota.

At last year’s trade deadline, the Lakers reportedly offered the Pistons guard Alex Caruso and draft compensation, though what, exactly, that compensation was remains unclear. While Caruso remains a key rotation player and helped the Lakers to a championship last season, Smith has logged only 28 minutes all season in just three games.

In other words, the Pistons negotiated themselves away from a much better package, taking a weak deal this year when a Caruso-and-pick deal was on the table last season. It was obvious Rose would be traded eventually. Why not persuade him to go to the Lakers when there was the opportunity to get Caruso in a return package?

“No idea what the Pistons were doing with that,” one league source told Heavy.com. “What was that about?”

One issue last year was that Rose had not expressed a desire to be traded, so the Pistons thought they should honor his wish to remain in the Motor City. Rose’s former agent, Arn Tellem, is now a Pistons executive and it was believed that Tellem held sway over whether Rose was dealt or not. But it backfired badly on the team.


Caruso Has Been Lakers ‘Swiss-Army Knife’

Rather than moving for Rose, the Lakers instead waived guard Troy Daniels and signed, in his place, Dion Waiters. Waiters did not play for the Lakers before the season was suspended because of the emergence of the novel coronavirus, but wound up averaging 11.9 points in seven games in the Orlando bubble restart.

He played only five games in the playoffs.

Certainly, the Lakers have no regrets about holding on to Caruso, who is one of the better perimeter defenders on the team. Caruso is averaging 5.5 points in 18.6 minutes this season.

Lakers star LeBron James offered high praise for Caruso recently.

“A.C. is whatever we need,” James said. “A.C. is kind of a Swiss Army knife, to be honest. If you need scissors, a wine opener, a fingernail clipper, a knife, he’s all of that in one. He can do it all. He can bring the ball up and play the point, he can play off the ball, he’s shooting deadeye from 3 this year and he defends at a high level. And he doesn’t make many mistakes.

“You always can live with that. You can live with a guy on the floor like that.”


NBA Trade Deadline is March 25

The NBA’s trading deadline is slated for March 25. The Lakers are not expected to be especially active this year, with key players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma locked up with new contracts.

Caruso is still a potential trade candidate, as is second-year player Talen Horton-Tucker, whose flashes of brilliance have caught attention around the NBA. Both Caruso and THT can be free agents after this season.

The Lakers have been said to have interest in shoring up two spots in the rotation—a big man who can shoot from the perimeter and a backup point guard. The Lakers are also looking, generally, for more shooting help.

In the end, L.A. could wind up simply looking on the post-deadline free-agent market again.

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