There’s some optimism with Alex Caruso injury, and the Bulls need him

The guard was forced to leave the Saturday win over Dallas, dealing with a tailbone issue, but received treatment on Sunday back in Chicago and sounded positive on a quick return. Considering how the Bulls look without him? They better hope it’s a quick return.

SHARE There’s some optimism with Alex Caruso injury, and the Bulls need him
Alex Caruso

ATLANTA — The report from back in Chicago was optimistic.

Then again, when discussing injuries and potential return dates, veteran guard Alex Caruso has been known to sell his coach some false hope.

Coach Billy Donovan spoke to Caruso about the sore tailbone suffered in Saturday’s victory against the Mavericks and was looking forward to having the do-it-all spark plug back sooner rather than later, especially with what’s on the schedule heading into Christmas.

Over the next six games, the Bulls play the Knicks three times, as well as a game in Miami. Those teams thrive on physicality and paying attention to details. Those aren’t exactly the overall strength of the Bulls, especially when Caruso’s not on the floor.

“There’s the perfect example of a guy that doesn’t need to score a lot of points to impact a stat sheet or impact a game,’’ Donovan said of Caruso. “It reminds me — obviously they’re different players — but when I had Andre Roberson in OKC, he was a great complement to Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant [and] Russell Westbrook because he just never really scored, was an opportunistic cutter, occasionally took a couple corner threes, lockdown defender, impact a game with his activity, his offensive rebounds, his steals, covering up for guys, putting his body in plays.’’

Basically, that sounds just like what Caruso provides on a daily basis.

While Caruso is 11th in team scoring with 5.2 points per game (just behind Derrick Jones Jr.’s 5.6 and Javonte Green’s 5.8), he is the clear leader in plus/minus (plus-88), and wasn’t being pushed by anyone, with Goran Dragic second at plus-63.

And it’s not like Caruso has built that plus/minus with the same group. He has been a starter or a sixth man and has often been used to close games.

That’s why the hope was that the treatment he received Sunday at the Advocate Center will lead to a quick recovery. Donovan said the team is expected to have a full practice Tuesday, which will provide a clearer picture.

“[Caruso’s] an elite defender, he’s not afraid to put his body in plays,’’ Donovan said. “So yeah, he’s as good as anybody I’ve been around when you look at stat sheets and you look at points, shot attempts, and say, ‘Geez, this guy’s fingerprints are all over the game with the way he played.’

“And I think Alex is smart enough that when he looks at the group, he always looks at it through the lens of, ‘How can I help the group function well, and what can I do to impact the group positively?’ ’’

Work in the lab

Some fans may be surprised that Patrick Williams is one of the better three-point shooters on the Bulls. But Williams isn’t surprised at all.

“Reps, reps,’’ Williams said of his 43.6 percentage from beyond the three-point line. “I can’t say that I changed my shot too much. Just more so being ready [to shoot]. When you’ve got guys like Zach [LaVine] and DeMar [DeRozan], a pick-and-roll genius like Goran, and just the guys that can get downhill and create their own shot, you get a lot of closeouts where a shot-fake can go or just a catch-and-shoot.

‘‘So just be poised in those situations to make the right decision.’’

Then again, it’s easy to forget that while it was a small sample size last season — just nine games — Williams did shoot 51.7% from beyond the arc.

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