Changing of the guard might be just what Bulls need for stretch run
Coach Billy Donovan started Alex Caruso over rookie Ayo Dosunmu for a second straight game, and there’s a method to his madness.
Ayo Dosunmu has exceeded expectations.
The Bulls rookie went from head-scratching draft-night enigma to a stimulus package for his hometown team.
But late March basketball is a different animal, and what the Bulls need in the starting lineup right now is experience, especially as they try to jockey for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
That’s one of the reasons coach Billy Donovan opted to go with Alex Caruso in the starting backcourt Tuesday, moving Dosunmu back to his bench role.
“I can’t believe how much he’s endured and how much he’s done as a rookie,’’ Donovan said of the former Morgan Park standout. “He has been incredible. But I’ve also asked a lot of him in a lot of ways, and he’s handled everything in terms of trying to run the team. I just felt like since Alex had his legs under him a little bit, starting off with that group defensively could give us a little bit better energy.’’
It worked in the debut of the new-look starting backcourt Monday against Toronto, especially in setting a tone of disruption on the defensive end.
Not only did each starter register at least one steal, but the Bulls also got back to what they did best earlier in the season — getting turnovers and scoring in transition off of them. In the 113-99 victory, the Bulls forced 14 and scored 29 points off those turnovers.
“AC is extremely smart and brings so much with IQ and defense and spacing the floor and shot-making,’’ Zach LaVine said. “With him moving into the [starting] lineup and Ayo going back [a reserve role], I think it’s going to be a switch-up.
“We’ll have to get used to it, but [Caruso] affects the game in so many ways and Ayo getting that experience in the starting position and now coming off the bench being that spark again, I think it will be good for us.’’
Donovan feels the move will have staying power.
The coach called it a permanent move with just 10 regular-season games left, likely changing only if Lonzo Ball makes an unexpected recovery from his current halted knee recovery.
The hope is that it also will benefit the bench players, as Dosunmu will now work with that group, trying to get them more defensive-minded.
Donovan has liked keeping his injured players with the team as much as possible, especially on road trips.
With the coach announcing Monday that Ball’s rehab program was halted from a running and cutting aspect, he said Tuesday that Ball would not join the team on this current five-city trip.
“The biggest thing for us is one, what can we do to continually help him get back on the court?’’ Donovan said.
“And the facility situation, medical people back in Chicago, that’s probably the best place for him to do that because it is an extra seven-to-10 days before we revisit how he responds.
“Being around the team would be great, but first and foremost we’ve got to get him to a place where he can play.’’
The Daily Zach
LaVine (left knee) was questionable leading up to tipoff against the Bucks. Donovan said it was more about load management in the second game of a back-to-back.
“All this stuff managing him, a lot of it is going to be the doctors and Zach communicating and talking about how he’s doing daily,’’ Donovan said.