Bulls guard Alex Caruso set to start basketball activities next week
The Bulls’ defense is completely different when Caruso is on the floor, and while he still has some steps to complete in order to return from right wrist surgery, a big one comes next week when he starts dribbling and shooting.
The numbers have been well-documented.
When guard Alex Caruso was in uniform being his usual disruptive self, the Bulls’ defensive rating was near the top of the league. Without Caruso, it was the second-worst.
Few players have been that impactful this season.
The problem is Caruso hasn’t been able to play since Jan. 21, when Bucks guard Grayson Allen turned a Caruso layup attempt into something out of an All-Elite Wrestling pay-per-view.
The hope is that Caruso will return soon as he takes the next big step in his comeback next week.
“Early this upcoming week, after the weekend, it will be big to get him on the floor, start that [process],’’ coach Billy Donovan said Saturday. “Get him to start doing things with the basketball. He’s really worked hard on his conditioning every day, and he really pushes himself and takes himself to exhaustion. I don’t worry about his physical fitness. He’s really detailed with that.’’
That doesn’t mean Caruso is a sure thing to return in the next few weeks. He’ll still have his basketball activities to work on, and he must pass a medical evaluation to make sure the surgically repaired wrist has healed correctly.
“The biggest thing once he gets a ball in his hand is finding his rhythm, shooting again,’’ Donovan said. “He hasn’t been able to do any of that stuff.
‘‘We’re really hopeful that early next week he can get on the floor and start to do those types of things.’’
When Caruso is ready to return, he’ll obviously be on a minutes restriction, but, as Donovan pointed out, the development of rookie Ayo Dosunmu while Caruso and Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) have been sidelined has benefitted the team.
Dosunmu’s strong play will allow Caruso to ease his way back into his role as the team’s defensive stopper.
The LaVine plan
Before Zach LaVine went to Los Angeles to see a specialist about his sore left knee two weeks ago, the Bulls were thinking that they would keep an eye on his playing time the rest of the regular season, including having him sit out the second games of back-to-backs.
But that’s not necessarily the case now.
Donovan said it’s about communication with all the parties involved and taking it as a game-by-game, day-by-day situation.
“With him, it’s always been the next day, so I check in with him the next day,’’ Donovan said. “[LaVine] felt really, really good [after the game against the Hawks on Thursday]. He and I have talked about going forward with the schedule, with back-to-backs, those types of things. It’s going to be something to see how he’s feeling. That’s really the biggest thing. We haven’t mapped out on the calendar if it’s back-to-back if he’s going to play the front or the back of it. It’s all going to come down to how he feels.
“The one thing that’s evident with Zach is he’s a competitive guy, and he wants to play. Between the medical people here, the medical people in California, they’re all in close contact, and Zach’s the one that’s giving the feedback on how he’s doing, and right now he’s feeling pretty good.’’