Alex Caruso Gets Honest About Bulls’ Rookie Julian Phillips After Win

Julian Phillips, Chicago Bulls

Getty Julian Phillips #15 of the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago Bulls rookie Julian Phillips made an impact in the team’s 104-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on January 28.

The No. 35 overall pick in the 2023 draft, the 20-year-old Phillips had 11 points on 57.1% shooting, going 1-for-3 from beyond the arc with two rebounds, one assist, and one very athletic block.

“I was just hoping they didn’t call a foul,” Phillips said via Chicago Tribune’s Julia Poe on January 29. “I knew I’ll block it wherever he put it at. So I just tried to get as high as I could and block it.”

Phillips hasn’t gotten many opportunities this season. He’s averaging just over five minus per game across 23 appearances this season. But teammates have taken notice of the former Tennessee Volunteer’s work behind the scenes.

“He listens,” teammate Alex Caruso said, per The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry on January 29. “He’s doing the things that we talk about. Obviously, he’s not going to be perfect his first year, halfway through his first year. But I think he’s doing a good job of trying to learn. And he wants to get better. That’s the two most important things.”

“I’m just trying to give him the answers to the test,” Caruso said. “Help him be in positions so he doesn’t have to think as much out there.

“You can see, he’s talented. When he gets in positions where his talent can just play out on the court, he’s a really good player. So just helping him try to think through the game before the game happens.”

Patrick Williams’ Injury Paved Way for Julian Phillips in Bulls’ Win

Phillps got his opportunity because Patrick Williams missed his fourth game of the season, this time with an ankle injury that left him in a walking boot, albeit for precautionary reasons.

To which Williams initially said, “Hell no!”

“You always want to take caution,” Williams said via Poe. “Just one of those situations where, whether I need it or not, the benefit of just deloading it for a couple days, whatever the case may be, definitely [out]weighed the look of it.

“Naturally, I said, ‘Hell no!’

“I know what it looks like to wear a boot. Never want to have to just wear one of those … But they kind of spoke to me about just the benefit of wearing it and just kind of deloading it.”

He did seem to enjoy Phillips garnering attention from the media, recording the rookie’s availability on his cellphone.

The win snapped the Bulls’ two-game slide, giving them a 7-6 record in January. They are two games up on the Atlanta Hawks in the loss column for the ninth seed. However, they trail the Orlando Magic by three games for eighth.

Bulls Battling Some Key Injuries

While Williams’ boot may have been precautionary, he is another key piece absent from the rotation as the Bulls attempt to bolster their place in the Eastern Conference.

Zach LaVine is still a couple of weeks away from returning from his sprained ankle. He has missed 22 of the team’s 47 games this season. And Torrey Craig has missed the last 20 games with a foot injury.

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