It would be easy for coach Billy Donovan to point to the pending returns of Alex Caruso and Javonte Green as instant cures for the Bulls’ inconsistent defense. But that would go against the culture he’s been trying to instill since training camp.
Getting back to being disruptive on defense has to be a total team commitment, Donovan said Tuesday.
“I think having Javonte out, having Alex out, certainly it hurts your defense,” he said. “I’ve always said that when you lose good players, dealing with it, there’s an impact. But . . . that would be a tremendous responsibility on the defensive end to put it all on Javonte and/or Alex being out. We’ve got to do it with five guys on the court. I think we’re capable of being better.
“Certainly, Alex has been an elite defender for us, but it hasn’t always been him — it’s been our team as well. When we get him back, he makes us better, Javonte makes us better. It’s the same way as when [Nikola Vucevic] went out, DeMar [DeRozan] went out, Zach [LaVine] went out, and a lot of these other guys went out. We’ll be a better team, as will everybody else across the league, when you’re completely healthy and clean.”
When that will happen for the Bulls is still up in the air. Green (groin) is still a few weeks away. Caruso (COVID-19 protocol) remains day-to-day, but the hope is he’s back soon, especially with what’s coming for the Bulls this week. Kyrie Irving and the Nets are in town Wednesday night, followed by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors on Friday. The more backcourt defenders the Bulls can throw at both teams, the better.
Even when Caruso tests out of the health and safety protocol, there’s the question of how quickly the Bulls can get him up and running from a conditioning standpoint.
“Generally, with the testing we’re doing, we do it in the morning, but we don’t get the results until the following morning,” Donovan said. “So we’ll find out a lot more [Wednesday] morning, where his numbers are at.”
A conditioning plan will be put in place once he tests out.
“A lot has to do with the medical, the NBA, the player and what were the symptoms like?” Donovan said. “How significant? How severe? Certainly, with the number of games we have, if he got cleared in the middle of that, would he be able to play back-to-back? If he was, would there be minutes restrictions? So we haven’t gotten that far yet.”
Guard Ayo Dosunmu entered Tuesday night’s game with the Pistons shooting 54.1% from the field and 45.3% from three-point range — both eye-opening numbers for a rookie. His secret?
“He’s taken the right shots,” Donovan said of Dosunmu, who scored 10 points. “When he’s been left open or there’s short closeouts, he’s shot it. When they’ve been up on him, he’s tried to put the ball on the floor and gone by people. That’s the hardest thing, I would say, for young players, is to know when to drive, when to pass.”