Missing guard Alex Caruso’s ability to force the opposition into turnovers is one thing.
But what the Bulls really missed in Caruso’s absence Monday against the Pacers was the chaotic energy he brings to the defensive side of the floor.
That’s why coach Billy Donovan wasn’t thrilled with the news he received minutes before his pregame media session: The medical staff ruled Caruso out with a bruised left wrist.
Because the game against the Pacers was the second of a back-to-back, there was no shootaround for Caruso to test the injury. So he arrived at the United Center for the pregame walkthrough and did all he could to try to get the wrist ready. He failed.
‘‘I don’t think so,’’ Donovan said when he was asked if the injury was thought to be significant. ‘‘It’s basically a bruised wrist right now, and I think just his mobility — him being able to do things — has really been difficult for him. But right now it doesn’t look like something that’s long-term. I haven’t talked to the medical [staff], but they didn’t feel like it was going to be long-term. They’ll do X-rays, MRIs, all those things on him.’’
Caruso moved into the starting lineup on the Bulls’ recent West Coast trip, with the team short-handed after losing forward Patrick Williams (wrist surgery) for the season and center Nikola Vucevic to a positive coronavirus test. That’s when he first injured the wrist.
Caruso tried to play through it, then reinjured it Sunday against the Knicks.
‘‘It was something that was lingering, and I think [Sunday] caused more problems for him,’’ Donovan said.
With Caruso out, everyone in the rotation moved up a spot. Coby White entered the starting lineup, and Troy Brown Jr. made his way back into the rotation.
Not only is Caruso leading the Bulls in steals with 2.2 per game, but he entered play Monday third in the NBA in that category. He also ranked second in the league in deflections with 4.1 per game.
Then there’s Caruso’s bulldog mentality to guard any player he’s asked to. That included going against Knicks power forward Julius Randle on Sunday.
‘‘I’m a little naive when it comes to basketball and what I’m capable of doing,’’ Caruso said. ‘‘Every time I get a matchup with a guy, it just adds to the amount of reps I get guarding them, the amount of times I’ve seen them get to what they like to do. It’s just me adding stuff to the memory bank, adding to how I can guard them better.’’
There’s still no definitive timetable for Vucevic’s return, but he was at the United Center for the game against the Pacers and had started the cardiovascular scanning protocols earlier in the day. He has missed the Bulls’ last seven games.
‘‘He’s doing great,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘It was great to catch up with him. He was in the locker room at halftime [Sunday] and then after the game. He was doing [the cardiovascular scans] and was in the gym [Monday] morning doing some stuff. But, again, it’s got to all be cleared by medical.
‘‘Obviously, being away for 10 or 11 days and feeling not great, it will probably take him a little bit of time to not only get his wind back but get his rhythm back, as well.’’