NBA executive says Lakers could look to bring Alex Caruso back

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers let Alex Caruso walk out the door as a free agent two years ago, and now they might be hoping they can get him back in the fold to add an element they reportedly believe they are missing.

“The rumor around the Lakers was they regretted letting him go almost immediately after it happened,” the exec said, according to Heavy Sports. “They knew that was a mistake. He’s not the same player now, but the Lakers are worried they don’t have enough of an edge. He could be someone who helps fix that.”

After playing four seasons for the Lakers, Caruso signed a four-year, $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls prior to the 2021-22 season. Shortly afterward, he admitted he was not willing to accept the Lakers’ lower offer but would have re-signed if more money was on the table.

It sounds like the Lakers had their own remorse about how it all went down, and they could try to correct the mistake by pursuing a trade with the Bulls that would be based on players rather than draft picks.

“They wouldn’t give up a (first-round) pick but they could give up (Jalen) Hood-Schifino and another contract if they wait until December 15,” the executive said. “Or Max Christie, he has some value. They’re not giving up a pick but they have young guys they can put up there.”

Hood-Schifino has yet to make his NBA regular season debut after he was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The 20-year-old is sidelined by a knee injury that he suffered during preseason and is still a few weeks away from returning, according to head coach Darvin Ham.

Another 20-year-old, Christie has appeared in four games so far this season and is averaging 3.8 points per game and a little more than 15 minutes per contest. He played 41 games as a rookie during the 2022-23 campaign, and the Lakers had some big plans for him early in the offseason.

Caruso is averaging 6.4 points per game while playing in all of the Bulls’ eight games this season. An undrafted player who debuted for the Lakers in the 2017-18 campaign, he was a valuable member of their 2020 NBA championship team.

LeBron James reportedly was not happy when Caruso left the Lakers, and the team took some criticism for its lowball offer. Without Caruso, the Lakers did not make the 2022 NBA Playoffs before reaching the 2023 Western Conference Finals last season.

The Lakers are off to a 3-4 start to this season while dealing with several injuries. Knowing Caruso as well as they do, they likely believe he can add something valuable to their pursuit of another championship.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.