No nickname necessary yet, but Bulls’ second unit may demand one soon

Coach Billy Donovan is experimenting with a second unit of Alex Caruso, Jevon Carter, Torrey Craig, Ayo Dosunmu and Andre Drummond, hoping to lock the opposition down, but will it work well enough to have staying power?

SHARE No nickname necessary yet, but Bulls’ second unit may demand one soon
Bulls guard Alex Caruso.

Guard Alex Caruso loves the idea of a second unit built on defense and mayhem, but is that realistic for the Bulls moving forward?

Andrew Lahodynskyj/Getty Images

It’s way too early for a nickname.

Not that guard Alex Caruso is against the idea, but he’s old school: Nicknames are earned, not just handed out.

And what will it take to earn that moniker? Sweat, chaos and mayhem.

“We first saw that a little bit during training camp,’’ Caruso said of the Bulls’ second unit. “It was the first few days, and it was me, JC [Jevon Carter], Torrey [Craig], Ayo [Dosunmu] and Drum [Andre Drummond]. There were drills set up and some structure to it, but we definitely had guys running around, flying around, getting deflections, causing some problems.’’

The look was impressive enough that coach Billy Donovan unleashed it Sunday against the Bucks.

With 3:06 left in the first quarter and Craig already in the game, Donovan summoned Caruso, Dosunmu, Drummond and Carter. A Caruso steal, some solid closeouts on shots and even a few flashes that they can be efficient on offense followed.

It’s the latter that’s most important for Caruso. If this second unit is to become a reality in the regular season, showing that it can score will be a must.

“Yeah, I definitely think it can work, even in today’s NBA, as long as we’re efficient enough on offense,’’ Caruso said. “You just have to get the right shots, which I thought we did against Milwaukee. A lot of that will come from making sure you’re not taking the ball out of the net every time. With that lineup, I don’t think you would.’’

It’s a solid point by Caruso but still a hard sell with four preseason games left.

Since arriving in 2020, Donovan has leaned on a nine-man rotation, especially the last few seasons with this core of players. He has used one of his primary scorers — DeMar DeRozan in most cases last season — with the reserves to make sure there’s a proven shot-maker in the mix.

Donovan has explained that tactic several times since training camp started.

“Going with 10 [players] means Vooch [Nikola Vucevic], Zach [LaVine] and DeMar are only on the floor together,’’ Donovan said. “If you start staggering a starter into the second unit, you’re really [committing] yourself to playing nine. If you do play that 10th [guy], those minutes could be anywhere from only six to eight.’’

Donovan is still asking himself: “Do we really have a true second unit? Is it beneficial for us.’’

Two questions that remain unanswered.

“You can press with those guys, which I always enjoy doing on dead balls,’’ Donovan said of his defensive-minded reserve group. “We’re going to keep looking at it, so it’s, like, ‘Let’s look at 10 guys.’ And listen, even if you do it on a particular night and it looks great, I don’t know if you can define it. But it’s a thing we definitely need to experiment with.’’

That’s all a player like Craig can ask for. He has played in 75 playoff games since the 2018-19 season. The common thread the better teams have had is toughness and players willing to do the dirty work, usually coming off the bench.

“It comes with wanting more and wanting to win at a high level,’’ Craig said. “Not being OK to win a certain number of games, 40 games or whatever, but wanting to win every time you play and knowing you are giving your all and giving yourself a chance to win.’’

That’s a mentality Caruso, Dosunmu, Carter, Drummond and Craig all share.

But a nickname?

“Nah, too early,’’ Caruso said.

“We gotta get in some real games and prove ourselves before we get into the nicknames.’’

The Latest
The seniors took advantage of the two weekends in June and elevated the class.
Don’t let passing political theater make you forget the awesomeness of America.
The Sox’ No. 23-ranked prospect is batting .324 between Double-A and Triple-A.
Donald Trump told the Washington Examiner that he had rewritten his acceptance speech in the wake of the Saturday shooting, emphasizing a call for national unity. “The speech I was going to give on Thursday was going to be a humdinger,” he said. “Honestly, it’s going to be a whole different speech now.”
Mr. Woo, who became a Chicago cop in 1969, is remembered as one of the department’s first Chinese American officers, and co-founder of the Asian American Law Enforcement Association.