The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling to find success this season, starting just 8-7 through the first 15 games.
And while LeBron James' return should do wonders to help them get back on track so, too, would Alex Caruso, who the team let walk in free agency.
Apparently, Caruso tried negotiating a new deal with the Lakers but was unsuccessful in convincing them to re-sign him.
The reasoning? Probably so that the team could retain Talen-Horton Tucker as a piece for the future.
But when Lawrence informed Caruso the Lakers would not match the offer, Caruso asked his agent to call back with a compromise: two years, $20 million. While the Bulls offer was for slightly less than $10 million over four years, only $30 million was guaranteed. A $10 million per year offering would have been commensurate.
Again, the Lakers said no. Their offer stayed at $21 million over three years, and the moment calcified a perception that already existed. Faced with going deep into the luxury tax to retain one of their most valuable role players, the Lakers balked. Caruso was their first call in free agency on Aug. 2, but they never budged from their initial offer.
The Lakers were dealing with their own version of real life, too. After building out their roster in the offseason, they took on $44 million in luxury tax, the fifth highest tax bill in the league. Adding Caruso would have driven that number higher. According to salary cap expert Danny Leroux, if Caruso had agreed to the Lakers offer, the franchise would have owed an additional $17.5 million in luxury tax, a fact the Lakers hoped would resonate with Caruso.
Instead, the Lakers signed 20-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $31 million deal. If the Lakers were only going to be able to keep one of the guards, it can be debated what was more valuable: A 20-year-old with unknown upside or the known commodity of Caruso. LeBron is about to be 37. Was it better to go all-in on a player who has proven he can help the Lakers win now? Or to look to the future a bit more while also hoping Horton-Tucker could help fill Caruso’s shoes?
Caruso’s exit paved the way for the Lakers to offer more to Horton-Tucker — a client of Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports, which represents both James and Anthony Davis — and keep him from signing an offer sheet elsewhere.
THT, who turns 21 in November, impressed everyone last season, with season averages of 9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game in 20 minutes of action.
This season, he has shown flashes of what he could be, and it seems he's improving with each passing game and it's no wonder why they wanted to lock him up.
It's just unfortunate that the Purple and Gold had to give up a guy who could have helped them in the process.
Let's hope they made the right decision.