The 28-year old guard is nursing a fractured right wrist he suffered in a controversial collision with Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen at the end of January.
But the 2020 NBA champ looks primed for a comeback, with video surfacing on Monday of the guard practicing without a brace, which he’d been rocking since his surgery:
Head coach Billy Donovan’s update (via NBC Sports) on the guard Monday wasn’t too optimistic, but progress is progress:
He’s gotta get his strength back. Like, he can’t really even pass with that (his right hand), he doesn’t feel comfortable shooting it. There’s not pain. It’s just stiff and it’s weak. That’s gonna take some time to build that up. I think once he gets to that point, then he’ll be certainly cleared for contact. My feeling is it will probably be a couple weeks of doing this, to be honest with you.
In 28 appearances (nine starts) with the Chicago Bulls this season, Alex Caruso is averaging 8.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.9 steals per game.
His return, as well as fellow guard Lonzo Ball’s, could dictate the team’s playoff success, or lack thereof.
Bulls Defense, Sans Caruso
The Chicago Bulls are 11-6 since Alex Caruso went down, but that above-.500 record doesn’t highlight just how much their defense has suffered.
But his absence has been felt–particularly on the defensive end.
In the 17 games without Caruso, Chicago’s given up 115 points nightly, down from their 110.4 season average.
Furthermore, per NBA.com, they’ve got the league’s 25th-ranked Defensive Rating over the last 15 games, at 116.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.
They’re at 111.3 points per 100 possessions on the season.
In that same span, they’re dead last in steals per game, and Caruso was averaging 1.9 per game prior to his injury.
It goes deeper than this too if you take a dive into the lineups tracking stats on Cleaning the Glass.
It’s got the Bulls at a (+9.3) over his 1,546 possessions played this year.
And without Caruso, the team has been (-0.2) over 4,270 possessions played.
Without even doing the search, it stands to reason that the (-9.5) swing with him off the floor is among the largest across the entire NBA for key contributors.
Fortunately for the Chicago Bulls, his absence hasn’t been in vain. The emergence of second-round pick and rookie guard AYo Dosunmu can almost entirely be credited to open minutes in the rotation.
He channeled his best Alex Caruso impression recently against an Eastern Conference All-Star.
Dosunmu Shines Against Young
Unequivocally the best nuggets to come out of the Chicago Bulls’ postgame availability following their win over the Atlanta Hawks, are the details surrounding the final defensive play from Ayo Dosunmu on Trae Young:
The rookie guard offered to guard an Eastern Conference All-Star in the final moments of a close game, over veteran Javonte Green, who hit two free throws with seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Say what you want about the injuries the Bulls have suffered this season, Caruso’s included.
But if they’ve done nothing for a team that’s won 39 games (!!!) despite it all, they’ve allowed rookie Dosunmu a front-row seat and contributing role on a team that’s currently leading their conference with 21 games to go.
That’s not something a lot of rookies get.
And that definitely isn’t something that rookies, selected in the second-round, rarely get. But he’s delivered.
Seemingly each and every time.
It’s possible that the Chicago Bulls could be better equipped for the playoffs when Alex Caruso returns if he and the risen Ayo Dosunmu can form a tandem off the pine.
But the fact remains that until they’re healthy, a title run is no more than a pipe dream for the Windy City crew.