Call it buyer’s remorse. call it revisionist thinking. Whatever you want to call it, LeBron James is going through it with the Lakers this year.
Eight months ago, James advocated for bringing in Russell Westbrook via trade without expressing much of that same desire for then-teammate Alex Caruso. The team didn’t need to choose between Westbrook and Caruso — or Talen Horton-Tucker and Caruso, for that matter — but the point guard that helped the Lakers win an NBA title was undervalued across the franchise.
The result? An insultingly low offer from the Lakers in free agency that saw the Caruso dart for the Windy City. Now, having spent less than a season alongside Westbrook and away from Caruso while feuding with the front office, James and Klutch Sports may be longing for what once was.
In a recent piece from longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein, Klutch and James did some damage control while distancing themselves from a front office in disarray by claiming they pushed hard to retain Caruso in the offseason.
LeBron James was a strong advocate for the trade that brought Westbrook to Hollywood and thus has to wear his considerable slice of culpability for how poorly things are working out. Yet one source did point out at least one counter on James’ behalf, noting that he was also one of the organization’s staunchest Alex Caruso fans and badly wanted the Lakers to re-sign the defensive-minded guard. The Lakers, despite all of their considerable revenue streams, refused to offer a contract on par with the four-year, $37 million deal Caruso landed from Chicago because of the luxury-tax implications. The injuries that have limited Davis to 37 games have done the most damage to the Lakers’ 17th-ranked defense, but Caruso’s departure was another big hit.
As has been made clear in the past, but put plainly: If James really wanted Caruso to stay in Los Angeles, then he would have stayed in Los Angeles. Look no further than the man who replaced Caruso in Westbrook, a player that James wanted to be a Laker and pushed for over Buddy Hield.
There is the possibility that James really did want Caruso to stay, but it’d be odd that someone so media savvy and intent on imposing constant pressure on the Lakers to spend would withhold that information until early March and not leak it either after Caruso left or before one of the two games they played against Caruso this season, which is why this feels like James putting distance between himself and a front office that has a remarkably low Q rating amongst Lakers fans currently.
For contrast of how James will usually let fans know if he’s unhappy about a move, look no further than how he responded to the loss of Jared Dudley the same offseason.
Congrats to my guy if this true, which is probably is! But ♂️ man!! FUCK— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 24, 2021
Excuse my language but still one hurt!! For many reasons that you wouldn’t understand. ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 24, 2021
So yeah. Color us skeptical if James really fought so hard for Caruso that we wouldn’t have heard about it until now, when everyone is trying to point fingers. It’s a smart move. And maybe there is a twinge of truth to it, perhaps a realization James has made after not having Caruso around to realize just how much he brought to the table when he was here. But it all smells a bit fishy and a bit too convenient in its timing given the state of the Lakers.