In the Chicago Bulls’s most recent game, a 94-90 nationally-televised loss on the road to their Eastern Conference rivals the Milwaukee Bucks, a hard foul by Bucks guard Grayson Allen saw Bulls guard Alex Caruso go down and stay down for some minutes with an injury to his wrist. And although Caruso stayed in the game, it seems that that will have been his final action on the court for quite some while.
Now that the team has had time to properly examine the injury, it seems the news is not good. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was the first to report that Caruso is ‘likely’ going to need surgery on a fracture caused by the heavy impact.
A few minutes later, Shams Charania of The Athletic went one step further, reporting that Caruso will indeed need surgery, and put an expected timeline for his recovery at being at least six to eight weeks.
Caruso has been an important and popular member of the Bulls this year, and a hugely useful change-of-pace option in the backcourt, particularly so from the bench. Although the game against Milwaukee was only his second since his return to action from a 13-game absence due to a hamstring injury, he was going to be hugely important in the upcoming stretch of games due to the absence of Lonzo Ball, whom the Bulls were already going to find it difficult to cover for.
Now, it just got a whole lot harder.
Taken Out on a Dirty Play
Although Caruso stayed in the game, Allen did not, ejected for the remainder of the game, smirking all the way. Allen carries a history of dirty play with him throughout both his professional and collegiate careers, and knowing this, head coach Billy Donovan was not happy.
Unhappy, too, was Caruso, who had some choice words for Allen of his own. It is unclear what if any punishments will befall Allen beyond the initial ejection and the automatic fouls that those carry. But whatever that further action will be – if even if there is any – Caruso and the Bulls will be the ones who come off worse.
It is not just the loss of Caruso’s 8.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. As solid as though numbers are, he as much as anyone on the team is the victim of statistics never telling the full story. Instead, it is Caruso’s forever-impactful defence and intensity across multiple positions that has made him such an overall positive for the Bulls, and his impact is not one that is easily replaced, particularly given how short they already were.
The Team is Already Short-Handed
In an era of bigger rotations than ever, the Bulls had only nine players feature against the Bucks, including the two minutes played by promising newcomer Malcolm Hill, simply because they had no one else. Tyler Cook got his first start with the team and played 25 minutes, having not played a second in the eight games immediately prior or been in the regular rotation all season, a measure of how bare the cupboard was.
Most notable are the absences of Ball and leading scorer Zach LaVine, both out with knee issues. A knee issue has also side-lined forward Derrick Jones Jr, while Javonte Green has a groin problem, and Patrick Williams is out for the majority of the season with a wrist injury of his own.
That is five rotation players and three starters out, with only the two oldest starters (DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic) still available. The Bulls are no longer top of the East, and it is reflected in the odds. It would be tremendously useful if the Bulls did not have to overburden these players in their 30s during the hump of the season and during an upcoming run of six games in eleven days. But thanks to Allen and his smirk, now they will have to.