Alex Caruso

Bulls Notes: Lineup, Williams, Dosunmu, Donovan

The Bulls made a change to their starting lineup on Friday against Golden State, replacing Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams with Alex Caruso and Javonte Green.

The new-look starting lineup didn’t exactly set the world on fire – the five-man group was outscored by seven points in just over 10 minutes of action – but head coach Billy Donovan said he liked what he saw and doesn’t expect it will just be a one-game tweak, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. He added that it wasn’t a defensive-minded move to try to slow down the high-powered Warriors.

“It was more to see, ‘Let’s see what this looks like,'” Donovan said, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I’m always evaluating and you’re not trying to make a decision after two or three games. But I think there’s a pretty decent body of work for the number of games we played. And I just wanted to take a look at something different.”

Dosunmu and Williams remained in the rotation, logging 21 and 19 minutes respectively, and Donovan said he appreciated how they handled the new roles.

“I understand there’s always a level of prestige with starting. I get all that. But I also think those guys see a bigger picture,” Donovan said. “It’s not like I said to them, ‘Hey listen, I’m moving you out of the starting lineup and you’re out of the rotation.’ I was really pleased with the way both responded. They’re team guys. They want to win. I’m sure in their heart of hearts want to start. But I also think the team is more important to them.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Donovan is hoping that the move to the second unit will encourage Williams, a former No. 4 overall pick, to avoid getting passive on offense. “The one thing we’ve been trying to do is to try to get him to be more aggressive,” Donovan said, per Johnson. “I think being out there with three terrific offensive players in Zach (LaVine) and Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) and DeMar (DeRozan), sometimes there aren’t as many opportunities. I told him in doing this I wanted him to be more aggressive offensively, that he was going to need to be somebody who could give that group a little bit of a pop. I look at it that this may actually help his development.”
  • Although the Bulls were pleased that Dosunmu and Williams accepted the lineup change without complaint, LaVine suggested that his teammates should view their demotions as a challenge. “I don’t think they should be happy or satisfied with it at all,” LaVine said, according to Johnson.
  • Writing for The Sun-Times, Cowley questions why Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf kept a lid on the contract extension that Donovan signed with the team before the season began, arguing that it’s a disservice to fans to try to keep that sort of move under wraps.
  • Donovan’s extension is a reflection of how the connection between him and president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has grown in recent years, according to Johnson, who notes that the two men speak almost daily and says there’s “never any misunderstanding in their shared, direct conversation.”

Central Notes: Turner, Pacers, Middleton, Caruso

It’s uncertain how changing agents will impact Pacers center Myles Turner this season, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack newsletter.

Turner, who is headed to free agency, still has fans within the Pacers’ organization, according to Stein. His name has been in the trade rumor mill for quite awhile, though his initial hope was to play out this season and then head to free agency, Stein adds.

It remains to be seen whether the Pacers will hold onto Turner through the trade deadline if they’re unable to sign him to an extension. He’s averaging 18.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game this season.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Even with Turner in the lineup, the Pacers are vulnerable to getting pushed around up front, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star notes. That point was reinforced by the Clippers’ Ivica Zubac, who powered his way to 31 points and 29 rebounds on Sunday. “He had a great presence around the basket. We didn’t do a good job on him,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know what else there is to say.”
  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton was once again assigned to the G League’s Wisconsin Herd on Monday to get some practice time and then recalled, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. When asked if Middleton might return to action on Wednesday, coach Mike Budenholzer remained vague. “We’ll just see how today goes,” he said. “We’re not going to put anything ahead of itself and just hopefully he has another great session today, see how he feels and just the old cliché take it day by day.” Middleton underwent offseason wrist surgery and has yet to make his season debut.
  • The Bulls are keeping a close watch on Alex Caruso‘s minutes, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Caruso has been dealing with a right ankle sprain and hasn’t practiced in recent days. “Just trying to be conscientious of his minutes and those long stretches for him because he does play hard,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “From my perspective, there are going to be some nights where he’s going to get over 30 minutes. For the most part, we’re just trying to manage how hard he does play and compete in relationship to the number of minutes he’s getting.’’

Bulls Notes: Williams, Caruso, Inconsistent Output

The play of 21-year-old Bulls starting power forward Patrick Williams has steadily improved month-over-month this season, and the 6’7″ forward out of FSU registered his excitement about that growth, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

As Johnson observes, Williams averaged 7.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG while shooting 35.3% on 2.4 threes per game in October. He is putting up 11.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG thus far in November, while connecting on 50% of his 3.3 long-range looks a night this month.

“I think I’m still figuring it out,” Williams said of his play. “But I’m 100 percent locked in on being the player that I want to be… I always felt I had what it took to be a really good player in this league. But now I’m starting to feel like I have what it takes to be a star and a superstar in this league. I’m kind of trying to take that role on and build on it day-by-day… Kind of trying to take it in my own mind now and show that on the court.”

There’s more out of Chicago:

  • Bulls reserve guard Alex Caruso sprained his right ankle during Chicago’s overtime loss to the Thunder on Friday. He sat out the contact components of a team practice Sunday due to the injury, and is now questionable to play for Chicago against the Jazz on Monday, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I just know there was a point in regulation where I could tell his foot was bothering him,” head coach Billy Donovan said regarding the timing of the injury. “The last 2 minutes of overtime, it looked like he planted and I could tell he winced pretty severely. He said, ‘You gotta take me out.’ He didn’t feel like he could move well enough.”
  • The 8-11 Bulls have had an up-and-down season thus far. Chicago is continuing to strive for steadier output this season, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley notes that the team’s middling record belies some of its more impressive performances, including a pair of victories over the Celtics and wins over the Bucks, Raptors and Heat. Losing several close games in 2022/23 has cost Chicago. “I think that’s just where we are,” All-Star small forward DeMar DeRozan said. “Kind of went through so many emotions already 20 games into the season. Sometimes you’ve got to soak in that hurt and kind of generate that to being competitors, and that’s where I think we are now.’’ The team is hoping to stack up some wins on the remaining four games of its road trip, but will have to do so against several postseason-contending Western Conference clubs in the Jazz, Suns, Warriors, and Kings.
  • In case you missed it, All-Star Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine was initially upset at being benched late in the fourth quarter last week, during an eventual 108-107 loss to the Magic. LaVine later clarified that he holds no ill will toward Donovan for the benching.

Bulls Notes: Bench, Drummond, Ball, Williams, DeRozan

The Bulls‘ bench came up big again on Wednesday in the team’s win over Indiana, scoring a season-high 43 points, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Alex Caruso, Goran Dragic, Andre Drummond, Javonte Green, Derrick Jones, and Coby White have all been regular contributors outside of the starting five, with the team frequently running out lineups that feature Zach LaVine and four reserves.

On Wednesday, Dragic was a game-high plus-19, while Caruso (+18), Drummond (+16), and Jones (+16) were right behind him. LaVine (+12), who saw action with those second units, was the only starter who had a positive rating.

“We mesh really well because everybody does what they do at a high level. And I think it complements each other really well,” Caruso said. “Drum gives us that inside presence—great screener, great rebounder, rim protection. Me on the outside kind of stirring everybody up on defense whether it’s Woo (Green) or D.J. helping out with the four-man doing the same thing. And then any of the guards that are in with us, whether it’s Coby, Goran or Zach, doing a good job making decisive decisions.”

Of the Bulls’ lineups that have played at least 10 minutes so far this season, none have performed better than the five-man group of Caruso, Dragic, LaVine, Jones, and Drummond, which has outscored opponents 42-21 in 17 minutes of play.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Drummond, who referred to Chicago’s second unit as “pretty much a starting lineup,” also dubbed himself “the best rebounder of the past century,” Johnson writes for NBC Sports Chicago. And, as Johnson points out, Drummond may have a statistical case for that title, given that his career average of 13.2 rebounds per game ranks first among players since 2000, as does his 24.68% rebounding percentage. The big man is averaging 9.4 RPG this season despite playing just 15.6 MPG.
  • It has been four weeks since the Bulls announced they would reevaluate Lonzo Ball in four-to-six weeks following his knee surgery, but head coach Billy Donovan didn’t have any concrete updates on Wednesday, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I have not heard anything as of yet with that,” Donovan said. “He’s doing good. He feels like he’s progressing. He’s pretty optimistic and positive about everything. I think the biggest thing with the surgery is the incision healing in order to continue to make progress, and I just don’t know how far along he is in that process.”
  • While Patrick Williams‘ inconsistent start to the season has raised questions about his spot in the starting lineup, it doesn’t sound like Donovan intends to move him to the bench anytime soon, Cowley writes in another Sun-Times story. “I do think that with it being early in the season, taking four or five games and saying, ‘OK, we’re scrapping this,’ you never get a chance to see and maybe get enough information to make those decisions,” Donovan said.
  • In a conversation with David Aldridge of The Athletic, Bulls star DeMar DeRozan spoke about embracing his role as a veteran mentor and enjoying a strong second act to his NBA career after being devastated by the trade that sent him to San Antonio following nine seasons in Toronto. “It’s definitely gratifying from the standpoint that I hope I can be an inspiration for guys who lose confidence in themselves. Or they hit a rock in the road, and (are) struggling to figure it out,” DeRozan said. “There’s always a way. You can’t get down on yourself mentally, you can’t doubt yourself. You can’t get caught up into what everybody else may say and the expectations they put on you. As long as you have the ultimate belief in you and your work ethic, that’s the only thing that matters, that will pay off.”

Bulls Notes: Jones, Reserves, Caruso, Williams

After being held out of the Bulls‘ first two games, Derrick Jones Jr. is trying to prove he deserves regular playing time, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Jones helped change the course of Monday’s win over the Celtics, scoring 10 points in the second quarter during his eight minutes on the court as Chicago turned a nine-point deficit into a seven-point lead. He also made an impact on defense as Boston managed just 15 points in the quarter.

Schaefer notes that Jones might not still be with the Bulls if their offseason pursuit of free agent Danilo Gallinari had been successful. Instead, Gallinari signed with the Celtics and Jones returned to Chicago on a one-year, $3.3MM contract that could turn into a bargain.

“I’ve been through this many times throughout my career,” Jones said of having to fight for a rotation role. “It’s not the first time. I’m good. … Always working. We stay in the gym, even the guys that get low minutes, we stay in the gym.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Jones wasn’t the only Bulls reserve who played well Monday, notes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The team also got contributions from Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso, Javonte Green and Andre Drummond as Chicago’s bench has been an early-season bright spot. “We dug ourselves a hole in that second quarter, but I give our second unit a lot of credit,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought those guys came in and really played with great energy and great enthusiasm and kind of turned the game.”
  • Caruso isn’t on an official minutes restriction, but Donovan is closely monitoring his playing time, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Last season, Caruso averaged more minutes in losses than in wins, and the coaching staff wants to make sure he doesn’t burn himself out with his aggressive style of play.
  • Patrick Williams‘ frustrating start to the season continued Monday, but he’s not in any immediate danger of losing his starting spot, according to Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune. Williams played just 15 minutes against Boston, contributing four points and three rebounds, but Donovan offered support after the game. “Since he’s gotten into the league, he’s been always guarding the team’s best players and he’s always taken it on,” Donovan said. “He’s never batted an eye. I think he has really incredible potential in the future and we all believe in him. This is a process where the more that keeps getting thrown at him competitively, he has to respond.”

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Caruso, Williams, Dosunmu, Terry

The Bulls are trying to get center Nikola Vucevic more involved in an offense that was often dominated by Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. LaVine hopes to even out the scoring duties after Vucevic saw his average drop to 17.6 PPG last season, his lowest mark in four years.

“We’ve all been main options,” LaVine said. “When things get a little tougher in the game, I think that’s when we look to our own ability to try to implement ourselves. But we need to look more inward and play more as a unit. That’s what we’re working on.”

Coach Billy Donovan tried some new looks with Vucevic during the preseason, Johnson notes, giving him additional opportunities in the paint and putting him in more read-and-react situations. Donovan trusts LaVine to make the approach work and says he has been willing to adapt to whatever the coaching staff has asked.

“For Zach, you’ve got to look that it’s always been about the team,” Donovan said. “My first year here — and just calling it like it was — he was the only guy who could really make a play at the end of the game off the dribble. We just didn’t have breakdown guards. … Now you add DeMar and Vooch and some other pieces, this is different. All these guys look at ways our team can get better and they can get better. And they have enough confidence in their own offensive ability that they’ll figure out where those spots are at.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Alex Caruso credits his time with the Lakers for helping him become a more complete player, Johnson adds in a separate story. Caruso was surrounded by veterans in L.A., and he says LeBron James had the biggest influence. “He helped me reach new levels of my game that I maybe didn’t have the confidence to reach at a certain point in my career,” Caruso said. “He enabled me to get on the court because we had such good chemistry. I was able to play off him and understand the game. … He shows up and plays every night. He’s out there as the best player, No. 1 on the scouting report. And he’s going hard.”
  • After returning from an injury last season, Patrick Williams played noticeably different with the second unit than with the starters, notes Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune. He’s more aggressive on offense when surrounded by reserves, but when he’s on the court with LaVine and DeRozan he tries to get the ball to them. “A lot of times in the first unit, obviously with Zach and DeMar, they’re All-Stars,” Williams said. “So I feel and the team feels like the best shot is for the ball to be in their hand. We’re trying to set screens for them and trying to get them open. … But with that second group, it’s just whoever has it.”
  • In another piece, Poe looks at six revelations from the preseason, including Ayo Dosunmu‘s new responsibilities as the starting point guard and Dalen Terry‘s push for a rotation role as a rookie.

Central Notes: Ball, Clarkson, Bogdanovic, Livers, Vucevic, Caruso

There’s confidence that Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball will return at some point this season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Ball underwent another left knee surgery on Wednesday and doctors are optimistic the issue has been fully addressed. However, he’s going to be out a number of months, Charania adds.

Ball was still unable to “run or jump” entering training camp despite a lengthy rehab from two previous procedures this year.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks showed a lot of interest in trading for the Jazz‘s Jordan Clarkson but the Jazz balked at Milwaukee’s proposal, Tony Jones of The Athletic said on the Bill Riley Show podcast (hat tip to HoopsHype). Utah was uninterested at taking back George Hill‘s contract, which Jones described as a non-starter in trade discussions. One of the league’s top scoring reserves, Clarkson averaged 16 points last season. He has two years left on his four-year, $51.52MM contract. Hill has an expiring $4MM contract, so Milwaukee would have still needed to send out more salary in a potential trade.
  • The Lakers and Suns were among the teams reportedly pursuing Bojan Bogdanovic but he wound up getting traded to the Pistons. The former Jazz forward says he wasn’t concerned where he ended up, according to Keith Langlois of“I didn’t have any preference,” Bogdanovic said. “There’s a lot of rumors. Who knows if that’s true or not? I’m super happy and excited to be part of the Pistons.”
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Livers wound up playing 19 games during his rookie season after recovering from a foot injury. He’s aiming to become a regular part of the rotation this season, he told James Edwards III of The Athletic. “I wanted to build off those last 19, 20 games,” the 2021 second-round pick said. “Coaches and everyone seemed to love the way that I was playing. It was working effectively.”
  • There was heavy speculation that Bulls center Nikola Vucevic would be part of a package to acquire Rudy Gobert during the offseason. Vucevic had serious doubts that would happen and was proven correct when Gobert was dealt to Minnesota, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “Rumors are a part of what we do,’’ said Vucevic, who is on an expiring contract. “Whether they’re true or not, it’s out of my control. I focus on what I can control, and, in the end, I had some fun with [the Jazz rumors]. At no point did I feel it was going to happen.’’
  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso is one of the candidates to replace Ball in the starting lineup as he mends from his latest knee surgery, but that’s not Caruso’s focus, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. “It won’t be a conversation I’ll have with Billy (Donovan). He might have it with me depending on what we need,” Caruso said. “But I’ve always been team-first trying to win games. If that’s me starting basketball games then that’s what we’ll do. If that’s me coming off the bench, that’s fine too. I’ve always been I’d rather finish games than start games.

Bulls Notes: Point Guard, Dragic, LaVine, Front Office

With Lonzo Ball undergoing another procedure on his knee and preparing to be sidelined for the start of the 2022/23 season, the Bulls will have to come up with a plan for how to replace his production at point guard, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, who examines the top candidates to take Ball’s spot in the starting lineup.

As Mayberry outlines, Alex Caruso probably makes the most sense as Ball’s short-term replacement, given his experience, leadership, and defensive abilities. While Caruso isn’t a big-time offensive player, that wouldn’t be a problem if he’s playing alongside Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Still, like Ball, Caruso has an injury history and shouldn’t be leaned on too heavily, since having both players on the shelf would seriously limit the effectiveness of Chicago’s backcourt, Mayberry writes. Ayo Dosunmu, Goran Dragic, and Coby White are the other candidates to take Ball’s place in the starting five.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • In another story for The Athletic, Mayberry poses 10 questions that will shape the Bulls’ season, including whether LaVine can realistically take his game to another level after signing a five-year, maximum-salary contract.
  • While Dragic and Andre Drummond were solid veteran signings, it remains to be seen whether they’ll help specifically address the Bulls’ shooting and rim protection, two needs management publicly acknowledged entering the offseason, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • The honeymoon period is just about over for the Bulls’ front office led by Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley as they enter their third season in Chicago, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Cowley, Karnisovas has proven he’s an “organizational-changer,” but the Bulls will have to continue moving toward title contention rather than peaking as a middle-of-the-pack playoff team.
  • The Bulls have a new jersey sponsor, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago, who writes that a Motorola Mobility patch will replace the Zenni Optical logo on the team’s jerseys starting this season.

Bulls Notes: Ball, Williams, Caruso, Dosunmu

The Bulls are playing the long game with Lonzo Ball and his health, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

A report surfaced on Friday that Ball is expected to miss training camp and won’t be ready to go for the season opener.

However, Ball’s situation may not be as ominous as that sounds, Johnson writes. The team has worked in concert with Ball’s specialists this offseason and remain confident his left knee will continue to improve. The knee itself is reportedly structurally sound but the bone bruise he suffered, which occurred before his meniscus tear in January, is what continues to gives Ball pain.

With Goran Dragić, Coby White, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and rookie Dalen Terry on the roster, Chicago has enough depth to take a cautious approach with Ball.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • The team is banking on a big jump from Patrick Williams, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Williams must pump up his scoring and rebounding numbers while hounding the opposing team’s best forward on the defensive end. The No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, who missed most of last season due to a wrist injury, has been busy this offseason playing in Pro-Ams and some pick-up games against NBA stars.
  • Injuries took a toll on the team last season, Caruso admits in an interview with Ethan Fuller of Basketball News“Obviously, we have a little bit of bad luck with injuries last year. That doesn’t help,” Caruso said. “I think in the beginning of the year, we were first in the East, we had a great defensive rating [and the] offense was doing everything they needed to do as far as moving the ball, creating open shots. And then, through a little bit of adversity in the year, we dropped a little bit of discipline in certain areas of the game.
  • In the same piece, Caruso praises Dosunmu for the way he held his own defensively in his rookie campaign. “Ayo was, basically all last year, just playing off the feel,” Caruso said. “Your first year in the league, you don’t understand concepts really. You don’t understand coverages. You’re seeing guys play, and you’re playing against guys for the first time. You’re seeing their best moves for the first time; they’re probably going to beat you most of the time. So for him to be able to compete the way he did last year on defense is a great sign for a guy in his first year.”

Eastern Notes: Caruso, Williams, Davis, Pistons

Playing hard-charging Alex Caruso less might produce better results for the Bulls guard, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes, arguing that Caruso’s style lends itself to playing in shorter bursts. Rookie Dalen Terry, another high-energy defender, could take away a few of Caruso’s minutes and that actually might be a good thing.

Caruso averaged 7.4 PPG, 4.0 APG and 1.7 SPG in his first year with the Bulls while being limited to 41 games due to injuries. He’s entering the second year of his four-year, $37MM contract.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • A breakout season from power forward Patrick Williams could be the Bulls’ biggest hope for internal improvement, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Williams missed most of last season due to a wrist injury. However, his skills could go a long way toward helping the Bulls fare better against the conference’s elite, Johnson notes, as he’ll often draw the opponent’s top player defensively.
  • Wizards lottery pick Johnny Davis will likely fight for minutes with last year’s first-round pick Corey Kispert, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Davis projects as a better defender than Kispert, but Kispert has the edge in experience and 3-point shooting. Becoming a better spot-up shooter will be pivotal for Davis to live up to his draft status, notes one of several scouts interviewed by Robbins to evaluate the rookie’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Not surprisingly, Cade Cunningham is the most valuable asset the Pistons possess, The Athletic’s James Edwards III writes. However, their second-most valuable asset isn’t a player currently on their roster but rather their draft pick next year, since Detroit is expected to be in the lottery again. Edwards ranks the team’s top 10 assets, with rookie guard Jaden Ivey coming in third.