Not only is guard Alex Caruso not on trade block, but he is Bulls’ ‘culture’

There’s a reason why Caruso is as untouchable a piece on the roster as anyone. And while he has heard the trade rumors, he’s not about to concern himself with them.

SHARE Not only is guard Alex Caruso not on trade block, but he is Bulls’ ‘culture’
 Bulls guard Alex Caruso drives to the basket against the Golden State Warriors’ Anthony Lamb and Kevon Looney.

Stats don’t reveal how valuable Alex Caruso is to the Bulls.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — Bulls coach Billy Donovan mockingly pushed the final box score aside Saturday. That’s usually a good practice for him when discussing what guard Alex Caruso does.

What Caruso does can’t be seen in the box score, and it’s not something novice watchers of the game will pick up on. There’s dirt under his nails when the final horn sounds on most nights, even if it can’t be seen.

‘‘He’s one of those classic guys that if you’re watching the game and you really understand the game, then you look at the stat sheet, you’re like: ‘You know what? Don’t tell me about the stat sheet. That guy impacts the game; he impacts winning,’ ’’ Donovan said. ‘‘To me, the stat sheet never really tells the story about the guys that are really impacting the outcome of the game with different things they do.’’

And there’s no doubt Caruso does those ‘‘different things’’ for the Bulls.

Here’s a glance at what he has meant when he has been on the court this season:

• The Bulls have a top-five defensive rating of 110.7 when Caruso is playing. When he’s not, that rating drops to 116.8 — near the bottom of the league.

• He leads the Bulls in plus/minus at plus-117. Forward Javonte Green is second at plus-55.

• Caruso ranks second in the league in defensive-box plus/minus with a 3.4 rating, his 164 deflections are second only to Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby and he averages 1.7 steals.

All those things had an impact in the Bulls’ victory Saturday against the Magic, far exceeding Caruso’s pedestrian-looking box-score contribution of seven points and two steals.

Whether it was a deflection or just physically getting into the Magic’s ballhandlers, Caruso seemingly disrupted possession after possession.

‘‘That’s kind of what I try to do every night,’’ Caruso said. ‘‘Some nights I’m just a little better at it than others.’’

What does that mean to the Bulls right now? Considering where they are in the standings and what the expectations were, it means everything.

That’s why a member of the organization shot down the idea of Caruso being on the trading block, which is what one report recently said.

In fact, when the Bulls have received calls inquiring about Caruso, their asking price has been so astronomical that it all but confirmed a Sun-Times report that Caruso is basically untouchable.

‘‘He’s the culture,’’ one source said.

That’s not a bad nickname for Caruso, considering his hustle plays often are plastered throughout the game film.

‘‘High IQ, knows what’s happening, what’s coming, what he’s going to do, where his man is,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He really reacts pretty spontaneously and has such a good feel for it. And then, like we’ve all talked about, he throws his body into everything all the time.’’

What Caruso won’t do is worry that he’s a trade piece.

‘‘They also said I was getting traded in December,’’ Caruso said of the rumor mill. ‘‘I lived in L.A. for four years [playing for the Lakers], and that’s kind of what happens there. You just play basketball games and be a good teammate until something changes. If nothing changes, you just keep doing what you’re doing.’’

That’s why Caruso said he has no plans to ask executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas where he stands as the trade deadline Feb. 9 approaches.

‘‘No, because I came into the league just hoping to be on a team, so just being part of a team is good enough, wherever that is,’’ Caruso said. ‘‘Obviously, I want to keep wearing the red and white. I love my teammates here, the city, and I’m going to give all I can to whatever team I’m on. It’s just kind of my M.O.’’

That’s why he’s so valuable to the Bulls, no matter what the box score says.

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