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Alex Caruso couldn’t believe how upset Lakers fans were about the team offering him less money than the Bulls

There is at least one person who can’t believe how mad many Lakers fans are about the team lowballing Alex Caruso in free agency: Caruso himself.

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Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Fan favorites are an interesting concept, because while they’re not stars, they’re also not like every other player on the team — if they were they wouldn’t be fan favorites. Alex Caruso was a fan favorite during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, but just how popular he was clearly didn’t fully hit him until after he left.

In a recent interview with Bill Oram of The Athletic, Caruso said he was surprised to see that his comments on J.J. Redick’s podcast, “The Old Man and the Three,” got so much attention across the sports media landscape:

Alex Caruso woke up to an avalanche of alerts Wednesday morning. He was a lead topic on morning debate shows and the reason much of the Lakers’ global fanbase was, to put it mildly, pissed.

When he went to bed the night before after recording a podcast with former NBA guard J.J. Redick, he was largely unprepared for the intense reaction to his candid remarks about his departure from the Lakers three months earlier.

“I was just like, ‘Oh shit,’” Caruso said. “I forgot people actually, like, really care about it.”

For those that didn’t see Caruso’s comments, or just chose to block it out from their memory, he told Redick that the Lakers’ initial offer for him was for two years and less than $15 million, which, make no mistake, was a blatant effort to save money — it’s even been reported as such. But Caruso told Oram that he doesn’t hold anything against the Lakers, and he hopes that the team’s fans don’t either:

“What is it with me and social media that just always gets flared up?” Caruso asked with a sigh.

Sitting on the second floor of the Bulls team hotel in San Francisco last week, Caruso uncapped a bottle of water and took a swig.

“I think the big thing is, people are trying to find a negative in it,” he said. “And I really think it’s more just so like a social media narrative of fans who are maybe missing me. … It wasn’t like (the Lakers) didn’t want me back or I didn’t want to come back. We won a championship together. To do that again would be awesome.”

With all due respect to The GOAT, that’s a big ask. Regardless of how you feel about Caruso, the Lakers were in prime position to retain an asset that could have helped them now but also in the future. Now, their only “big” contracts outside of their big three are Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn, neither of whom had an affect on the Lakers’ ability to re-sign Caruso because they had his bird rights.

One could argue that letting Caruso go made the Lakers a more attractive free agent destination for players like Nunn and Malik Monk, but when you consider the fact that there are nine (!!!) guards on the roster, that argument doesn’t hold much weight. Playing time was always going to be hard to come by, and if I were the Lakers, I would have preferred Caruso’s familiarity with the system and defensive attributes to what was out there for the taxpayer mid-level exception or the veteran’s minimum exception.

Great, now I’m mad again — sorry, AC.

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