With Rob Pelinka's customary preseason press availability, the question about what happened with fan favorite Alex Caruso inevitably came up.
The words "aggressive attempt" being in quotation marks don't help with the quote's ambiguity. After all it was Ramona Shelburne of ESPN who reported that Caruso was willing to return for less money than the Bulls offered. However it is likely that LA was not going to go above a $7 million a year deal due to concerns of going over the luxury tax.
Taking a step back though, it is helpful to remember the timeline. It was only hours into free-agency when Caruso signed with the Chicago Bulls. Sam Amick of the Athletic had the quote.
"The Lakers did a very puzzling thing today, and only time will tell if they pay a price for it in their pursuit of an 18th championship. When faced with the prospect of losing Alex Caruso, the 27-year-old guard whose Bird rights they carried and could thus pay whatever they wanted, they didn’t put up any free-agency fight en route to him agreeing to a four-year, $37 million deal with Chicago. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Caruso’s camp went back to the Lakers after the Bulls made their offer and were told that there would be no counter."
So it appears in reality the Lakers had their 'final' price they were willing to offer Caruso, and the Chicago Bulls were willing to offer more. Starting a negotiation with your final price offer doesn't exactly give the appearance that you're 'all in' on bringing a player back. Caruso was a fan favorite though, and fans may never be really happy that the Lakers didn't try a little harder to bring him back.
There is a sense around this decision that the Lakers were going to bring either Caruso, or Talen Horton Tucker. Tucker in early August signed a 3-Year, $32 million contract, so that ultimately closed the door on Caruso.
Given all those implications, Pelinka probably said the only thing he could in this situation. Ownership was surely where the buck stopped in terms of luxury tax choices, and Pelinka is a professional who would never put the blame on ownership. Pelinka's only answer was to say they offered him a competitive contract, and Caruso chose to go to Chicago.
Laker fans will miss the Caru-show, but winning an 18th championship will help ease those feelings.