We already knew that before Alex Caruso signed a four-year, $36.9 million contract with the Bulls this offseason, he went back to the Lakers and gave them a chance to keep him for less (reportedly three years, $30 million). The Lakers said no, Caruso signed with the Bulls, and his hustle and defense have been an important part of why Chicago is off to a 7-3 start.
“I really didn’t hear much from any team — including the Lakers — leading up to [the start of free agency at] 6 p.m., and then they called, and the Lakers made their offer. It wasn’t an offer I was going to accept because I was going to be able to get considerably more money from another team…
“I got on the phone with [Bulls GM Artūras Karnišovas] and with [head coach Billy Donovan], and the way they were just talking about how they wanted to play and how they saw me as a player, I thought they hit the nail on the head. I thought everything they said, I was like ‘I think that’s accurate, I think that’s what I bring to the table, I think that’s how I can help the team win, I think that’s the direction this team wants to go.’ I thought there was a need for the stuff that I had.
“Essentially we got that offer, went back to L.A., asked if they could do the same, 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.”
Caruso confirmed to Redick the Lakers’ initial offer was close to two years, $15 million.
When discussing this, remember that the Lakers are deep into the luxury tax, so that $10 million a season Caruso wanted would cost the Lakers significantly more in reality.
The Lakers chose to go a different direction with the money they spent and traded a lot of their depth — Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell — to get Russell Westbrook from Washington. The jury is still out on how that decision will play out long-term, but the early returns have been concerning for Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Bulls could not be happier.