Bulls Star Faces Reality Over Team’s Current Struggles

Alex Caruso, Chicago Bullls

Getty Alex Caruso #6 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles up the court.

It could be worse. The Chicago Bulls (11-15) could be embroiled in rumors of inner turmoil and in-fighting as the season has gone into relatively rocky territory. Losers of four of their last six outings, this is instead a team that can lean on its veteran leadership as it tries to sort through inconsistency.

One of those veterans, guard Alex Caruso, has even weathered the storms that come with winning an NBA championship.

So it is not surprising to see Caruso attempting to be a beacon of hope in the uncertainty.

He missed the 123-122 overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks, which came on a defensive miscue by teammate Derrick Jones, Jr. Ahead of the first of three matchups with the New York Knicks in a nine-day span, Caruso weighed in on the Bulls’ current plight.

Caruso: Bulls ‘Really Close’

“Little things can change the game,” Caruso said per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson. “One possession here or there, (you) can go from the sixth seed to out of the play-in. That’s just kind of where the league stands. Hopefully, we can lock in and execute late game and get some of these turned around in our favor.”

The Bulls are 3-10 in clutch games this season – contests within five points in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime — ranked 30th in the NBA. Last year they were 25-16, the fourth-best mark in the league.

They are 11th in the Eastern Conference and just two wins out of the Play-In Tournament picture. That is a step back from last year but an upward trend from where they were a week ago.

Caruso returned to a full practice on Tuesday with his sights set on making a return against the Knicks. The 6-foot-5 utility man has gone from reserve to starter for good reason despite his impact not always showing up in the form of points.

He leads the team with a plus-15.3 net rating, per Cleaning The Glass.

Caruso says that there is “no pain” and that he is hopeful he can keep his on-court absence brief. His propensity to get banged up was part of the reason Donovan was hesitant to open the season with Caruso in the starting lineup.

The need for quality defenders around DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic – and the inexperience of players like Ayo Dosunmu – made a change unavoidable.

Now, they just need to put it all together.

Terrorizing Twosome

“Obviously missing Lonzo [Ball] is a hit just because of how good a defender and how smart he is,” Caruso said. “But I feel we’ve done a good job of playing for each other, contesting shots, playing with extra effort, making rotations. I think it’s about making sure we’re doing it every time rather than 75-80 percent of the time.”

Brandon Robinson of Bally Sports reported that Ball was in good spirits and taking his time in his bid to return to the floor for the first time since January.

In his absence, Caruso has formed a formidable duo with Javonte Green.

Green made his return to the lineup against Atlanta following a three-game absence. But he and Caruso give the Bulls the pair of heady defenders they lack without Ball. And, to the point that they should hold off on blowing up this current group, they could unlock some intriguing small-ball lineups when Ball does return.

That is a long way off still, however, with Ball not expected to return until some time in January at the earliest. The Bulls could be well out of the playoff picture by then but they certainly are not right now.

Read More
Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x