Alex Caruso

Bulls’ LaVine, Caruso Listed As Out For Game 5

The Bulls will be missing a handful of important backcourt players on Wednesday as they look to stave off elimination in their series against the Bucks. Down 3-1 and already without Lonzo Ball, Chicago has also ruled out Zach LaVine (COVID-19 protocols) and Alex Caruso (concussion protocol) for Game 5, according to the NBA’s latest injury report.

LaVine was the Bulls’ second-leading scorer during the regular season with 24.4 PPG on .476/.389/.853 shooting, while Caruso was the club’s top perimeter defender, so Chicago will take a hit on both sides of the ball as a result of their absences.

The Bucks are dealing with some injury issues of their own, with Khris Middleton (left MCL sprain) still sidelined and George Hill (abdominal strain) listed as questionable after missing the first four games of the series. However, those absences didn’t slow them down at all in Games 3 or 4 — the Bucks won those two games in Chicago by a combined total of 54 points and now have an opportunity to close out the shorthanded Bulls in Milwaukee.

With LaVine and Caruso unavailable, the Bulls will have to lean more heavily on players like Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, and Javonte Green as they attempt to extend the series.

Central Notes: Caruso, Pistons Draft, Cavs Pick, Rubio

The Bulls’ already-depleted backcourt could be missing a key guard in Game 5 of their first-round series against Milwaukee. Alex Caruso is in concussion protocol and his status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago reports.

“It’s probably going to be a day-to-day thing with him,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s obviously going to have to go through a series of tests before he’s cleared. I don’t know how long that would take and how long it would take for his symptoms to go away… We’ll find out more on Tuesday.”

Caruso sustained an inadvertent shot to the face from Bucks guard Jevon Carter during the second quarter of Game 4 as Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead in the series. Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White would absorb Caruso’s minutes if he can’t go.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • What will the Pistons do if they land the No. 1 pick for the second consecutive year? James Edwards III of The Athletic predicts they would draft Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren. Edwards lists Jabari Smith of Auburn and Paolo Banchero of Duke next on the team’s wish list. However, he doesn’t see Detroit drafting Purdue guard Jaden Ivey — No. 4 on ESPN’s Best Available list — higher than No. 7.
  • One of the consolations for the Cavaliers in their play-in tournament flameout is that it allowed them to retain their first-round pick. The next step is decide whether to use that pick or deal it away for an experienced rotation player, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. President of basketball operations Koby Altman is willing to bring in a rookie. “There’s nothing wrong with having another young player that you can develop,” he said. “I don’t want to say, ‘Let’s trade it again and get somebody else.’ I think there’s a nice niche here for a young prospect to really grow without a ton of expectation and grow into potentially a rotational player who can help down the road.”
  • In the same story, Fedor reports that at least one source believes a CavaliersRicky Rubio reunion is “highly likely.” Rubio, on the mend from a torn ACL in his left knee, will be a free agent this summer.  His expiring contract was traded to Indiana in February.

Alex Caruso Exits Game With Facial Injury, Possible Concussion

After suffering a facial injury in the second quarter of a critical Game 4, Bulls guard Alex Caruso has left the game for good this afternoon, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets that the Bulls are examining Caruso to check for a potential concussion.

Bucks reserve guard Jevon Carter inadvertently shoved his forearm into Caruso’s face while scrambling during a play. Carter drew blood, and Caruso had his nose treated before eventually departing the floor for the locker room.

Caruso, starting at the point in the place of his injured teammate Lonzo Ball, has been a key defensive force for Chicago in its first-round matchup with Milwaukee. His offensive output has been fairly modest. He had been averaging 8.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.7 RPG, and 1.3 SPG through the Bulls’ first three games in the series. The Bucks currently lead the series 2-1 and are in position to win Game 4.

Head coach Billy Donovan opted to start rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu in Caruso’s stead to start the game’s second half.

Central Notes: Middleton, Ball, Caruso, Sexton

How will the Bucks survive their first-round series against the Bulls without Khris Middleton? Jrue Holiday needs to ramp up his production, Eric Nehm of The Athletic opines. Middleton will be out at least two weeks with an MCL sprain and he’s the only big wing in the rotation, Nehm notes. Coach Mike Budenholzer could go a number of ways with his starting lineup, from Grayson Allen to Pat Connaughton to even Bobby Portis, which would give Milwaukee a jumbo look.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball has already been ruled out for the postseason and there’s still reasons for long-term concern, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Ball has continued to deal with discomfort in his left knee and coach Billy Donovan isn’t sure when he’ll be able to begin an offseason training program. “If it gets to a place where he’s still having discomfort after a longer period of time, I don’t know what the next step would be,” Donovan said.
  • Added last offseason on a four-year, $37MM pact, Alex Caruso is paying big dividends for the Bulls in the playoffs, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. Caruso’s defense was the underrated reason why Chicago won Game 2 in Milwaukee. “He made a couple of big threes, had a couple of rebounds that were big. … He’s really a great guy because he will not shortcut or rest on the court, so to speak,” Donovan said. “He’s going to give you everything he has. He’s smart, knows what he has to do, is physical defensively for our team and he gives you everything he has.”
  • Multiple sources tell Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Pistons could make a run at Cavaliers restricted free agent Collin Sexton this summer to pair him up with Cade Cunningham in Detroit’s backcourt. The Pistons could have the most cap space in the league this summer but Fedor is uncertain if anyone will give Sexton an offer sheet that Cleveland wouldn’t match, noting Sexton’s season was a washout after he tore the meniscus in his left knee 11 games into the campaign.

Central Notes: Caruso, COVID-19, Bridges, Joseph, McGruder

Guard Alex Caruso played 33 minutes in the Bulls’ Game 1 loss to the Bucks on Sunday. Coach Billy Donovan said Caruso has been dealing with back pain for several weeks and is trying to tough it out, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. He was limited to seven points and missed all but one of his five 3-point attempts.

‘‘He’s felt the best I think he has felt,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Is he 100%? No, but he’s a lot better than he was those games before he sat out. I do think with Alex [that minutes restrictions are] going to be somewhat important. I think if you start pushing him with his back up into the high 30s, I don’t think that would be really, really wise. You want to see how he’s feeling in the game. He kind of throws his body in there and plays incredibly hard and physical, so we’ll have to see how he responds.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are wary of how a positive COVID-19 test could affect their playoff run, coach Mike Budenholzer told Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He noted how Paul George missed the Clippers’ second play-in game after testing positive. “There’s been a lot of positive movement. You just don’t want to forget, you’ve just got to know it’s still out there,” Budenholzer said. “When we had the conversation what happened with the Clippers and Paul George had happened and the coaching staff with Chicago. I’m guessing those things pop up in conversations in the locker room or at baskets and things like that. It’s not good, but in the sense of it just being a reminder in conversation, I think it’s helpful. Certainly our guys are aware.”
  • The Pistons could have the most cap space in the league this summer but a giant offer sheet for Hornets restricted free agent Miles Bridges wouldn’t be a wise move, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Bridges’ best position is probably at power forward and putting him in that spot wouldn’t be a long-term upgrade over Saddiq Bey, who can play either forward spot.  If Detroit winds up with a top-three pick, the team will likely draft a power forward, which would force Bridges to play small forward with Bey moving out of position to shooting guard. The only way adding Bridges would make sense would be to trade Jerami Grant for a wing or to draft one with their lottery pick, Edwards writes.
  • Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press predicts that Grant, Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder won’t return next season but that the Pistons will re-sign restricted free agent Marvin Bagley III.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, LaVine, Losing Streak, Ball, Caruso

After another blowout loss on Friday night, this time at the hands of the Hornets by a score of 133-117, Bulls stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine didn’t mince words about the way the team performed, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Charlotte started the game 11-for-11 from the field and scored 79 points in the first half, the most Chicago has allowed in a half this season.

We got our a—- beat. Simple as that,” DeRozan said. “They attacked us. We couldn’t guard them. They had their way.”

Fans at the United Center booed the Bulls at a couple separate points during the listless performance, and LaVine said those boos were earned.

To be honest, they should (boo). It’s embarrassing,” LaVine said. “We’re a really good basketball team and we’re not playing like it. They (the fans) know that. We know that. It’s understandable. We understand they have our back. But we have to play better.”

Chicago has lost four straight heading into Sunday’s finale at Minnesota and is locked into the No. 6 seed in the East after Toronto beat Houston on Friday. LaVine said the mood in the locker room isn’t great right now, according to Jamal Collier of ESPN.

Everybody is upset, man. We’re getting our a– kicked. They just jumped on us,” LaVine said. “We singing the same story, and I always try to be very uplifting and try to see the bright side, but I’m tired of talking. We say a lot of words and we say the right thing, but we got to figure it out. We’re not doing that, plain and simple.”

As Schaefer notes, the Bulls are struggling at the worst possible time with the playoffs looming — they’re just 7-15 since the All-Star break and playing poorly on both ends of the court, with the fifth-worst point differential in the league during that span.

Here’s more on Chicago:

  • DeRozan said he’s not interested in resting for the finale, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s nothing like having a rhythm while playing,” DeRozan said after Wednesday’s loss. “I’m going to continue to play this thing out, and hopefully we’re going in the right direction come next week. It’s going to come. It sucks right now over the last couple of weeks, but I have the utmost confidence in the guys.”
  • LaVine was less certain about his status for Sunday’s game, but said he’d rather play if he can, as Schaefer relays. “We’ll evaluate it. I don’t know yet,” LaVine said. “I’ve been playing injured the whole year. I want to continue to fight. But I’m gonna listen to the medical staff, my team, and figure out what’s best for us moving forward. But I plan on trying to play.” LaVine has been battling left knee soreness throughout the season.
  • Head coach Billy Donovan said Lonzo Ball will continue to rehab in Chicago with the goal of reducing discomfort in his surgically repaired left knee, but a second surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, Cowley writes in a separate story. “I have not heard anything, or no one has told anything to me that he will need another surgery,” Donovan said. “So I don’t necessarily believe that is going to take place.” Ball was ruled out for the season on Wednesday after experiencing a couple setbacks during rehab.
  • Within the same article, Donovan said Alex Caruso is still dealing with back problems. “He still has some mobility issues, discomfort,” Donovan said. “He’s been hampered with the back for some time now.” As Cowley observes, it sounds like Caruso might not be 100% for the playoffs — he has missed the past two games while dealing with the injury.

Lakers Notes: Davis, James, Injuries, DeRozan

The Lakers aren’t technically out of playoff contention yet, but after falling two games (and a tiebreaker) behind San Antonio in the Western Conference standings on Sunday, their odds of claiming a spot in the play-in tournament are increasingly slim — in fact, the Lakers could be officially eliminated as soon as Tuesday if they lose in Phoenix and the Spurs win in Denver.

Following Sunday’s loss, Anthony Davis sounded like someone who recognized that L.A.’s season is all but over, as he reflected on “what could have been” if the team had been healthier.

“I think the biggest thing that I think about personally is what we could have been, had we stayed healthy all year,” Davis said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “What could we have been. … Guys feel like, ‘OK, what could we have been if I was healthy all year, [LeBron James] was healthy, [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy.’ You think about those things. We put this team together and it looked good on paper, but we haven’t had a chance to reach that potential with guys in and out of the lineup.”

Davis, who has only played in half of the Lakers’ 78 games so far this season, has been bothered throughout his career by injuries, but he bristled at the perception that he’s fragile, telling Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times that he hasn’t been sidelined due to “little ticky-tack injuries.”

“This is what I’ve learned about injuries,” Davis said. “Last year when I wasn’t playing, people were saying, ‘AD’s giving up on his team. It’s the playoffs. AD has to play. He’s got to play.’ And when I went out there to play, got hurt again, they said, ‘Who was his trainer? Who let him play?’

“So, what the [expletive] do you want me to do? When I play, it’s a problem. It’s a problem when I don’t play. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and how my body feels. And we go from there. I’m not worried about who’s saying what or who thinks this about me because none of them have stepped on the floor and played. And the ones that did play, they should understand.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • A source familiar with James’ status told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that the star forward is “unlikely” to play on Tuesday vs. Phoenix. However, according to McMenamin, the source said there’s still a chance that could change if LeBron’s ankle improves more than expected by tomorrow night.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic and his colleague John Hollinger both pushed back against the idea that injuries have been the primary cause of the Lakers’ disappointing season. Buha observed that even in games when Davis and James played, the team was just 11-11, while Hollinger said the team’s offseason plan needs to be better than simply running it back and hoping its two superstars stay healthy in 2022/23.
  • Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up and First Take on Monday, former Lakers president Magic Johnson criticized the club for not acquiring DeMar DeRozan last offseason instead of Russell Westbrook (link via Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post). While that’s not an unreasonable take, given that DeRozan had interest in playing for his hometown team, Johnson’s assertion that the Lakers could’ve had DeRozan, Buddy Hield, Alex Caruso, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope instead of Westbrook is a fantasy that doesn’t pass muster. Unless DeRozan had been willing to sign for the taxpayer mid-level exception (which wasn’t viewed as a viable option at the time), L.A. would’ve become hard-capped by acquiring him and would have had no way of carrying all those contracts in addition to James’ and Davis’ maximum salaries. Acquiring both DeRozan and Hield without giving up Caldwell-Pope also likely wouldn’t have been possible due to salary-matching rules.

Bulls Notes: Caruso, Ball, Struggles, Williams, White

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said Alex Caruso is dealing with back spasms, which is why the guard asked to come out in the third quarter of Saturday’s 127-109 loss to Miami (Twitter link from Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago). Donovan said “it’s a problem” right now, but it’s not expected to sideline Caruso long-term.

Caruso might be rested during the last four games of the regular season depending on how he’s feeling, Donovan said. Caruso has been working hard to stay on the court by going through treatment, but the back spasms are hampering him at the moment.

Donovan also said the team is trying to slowly work Lonzo Ball back up to sprinting and cutting, but he’s not full speed yet. Donovan expects to know more on Ball’s progress by Tuesday or Wednesday, as Schaefer relays (via Twitter).

Ball hasn’t played since January 14 after suffering a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his left knee, which required surgery. He was originally projected to miss six-to-eight weeks, but he’s now nine-plus weeks removed from surgery. He’s still dealing with the bone bruise and had some discomfort a couple weeks ago.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • The Bulls’ struggles against top-tier teams continued on Saturday when they lost to Miami, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is a combined 0-17 against the Heat, Bucks, Sixers, Suns, Grizzlies and Warriors. The Bulls are currently 45-33, the No. 6 seed in the East. They trail the Raptors, winners of five straight, by a half-game for the No. 5 seed.
  • Second-year forward Patrick Williams recently had his minutes restriction lifted, but Donovan said he’s not going to be handed minutes just because he’s healthy, Cowley writes in a separate story. “When [people] are sitting here, ‘Well, play him 30 minutes,’ sometimes he’s not ready for that,” Donovan said. “I get a chance to be around him every single day and talk to him, and there’s things he’s trying to figure out along the way, too. You want to put him in a position where he can be successful. I have to keep on trusting him. . . . Like, I had to get on him at halftime [Thursday] about, ‘You have to do more.’ It’s got to get to a point where for him it’s more instinctive, where he’s doing it a little more on his own.” Williams missed most of the season after undergoing left wrist surgery.
  • With Caruso, Ball and Zach LaVine (sore knee) all dealing with injuries, the Bulls need more production from Coby White, according to Cowley. In 39 games (28.2 MPG) leading up to the All-Star break, White was averaging 14.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 2.8 APG on .453/.401/.840 shooting, but he’s been in a bad slump ever since — his averages have dipped to 9.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 3.1 APG on .383/.314/1.000 shooting in 19 games (25.3 MPG) post-break. He went 0-of-9 on Saturday, including 0-of-7 from deep.

Central Notes: Williams, Caruso, Pistons Offseason, Hayes

After being sidelined with a wrist injury since October, Bulls power forward Patrick Williams seems happy to be back on the floor for Chicago in any capacity. Though Williams was a starter in his five games pre-injury this season, head coach Billy Donovan has opted to play him off the bench during his first two games back this week. Williams does not mind the switch, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I’m fine with it, as long as I can contribute to the team,” Williams said ahead of his first game back with the Bulls, an eventual 113-99 win over the Raptors on Monday. “I plan on being in this league for a long time. Sitting out for five months, I may not be able to show everything. But just help the team win in any way (I can)… I think winning takes care of everything. If we win, everybody’s happy. No matter how many points you scored, no matter how many minutes you played, everybody’s happy. If you get a ring, everybody gets a ring.”

Williams proved a key contributor even in limited minutes during that victory against the Raptors, and reiterated his excitement about returning to the floor in his postgame comments, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“It was amazing,” Williams said. “Just having something taken from you for so long, something that you love and finally being able to get it back and enjoy the game, there’s really nothing like it.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Donovan has opted to make a change in his starting rotation with Bulls starting point guard Lonzo Ball still shelved and reserve guard Alex Caruso back healthy. Though a good defender, rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu has been demoted to the bench in favor of the more experienced Caruso, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “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,” Donovan explained. “AC is extremely smart and brings so much with IQ and defense and spacing the floor and shot making,’’ All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine said regarding the change. “With him moving into the [starting] lineup and Ayo going back [a reserve role], I think it’s going to be a switch up.”
  • The Pistons, the No. 15 seed in the East, have plenty of intriguing decisions facing them in the 2022 offseason. In a new mailbag, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic examines several key summer storylines. Edwards anticipates team president Troy Weaver possibly targeting a player with a handle in the draft or free agency to pair with rookie guard Cade Cunningham. Edwards also discusses his expectations for the future of forward Jerami Grant, as well as that of power forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and a restricted free agent this summer.
  • Second-year Pistons guard Killian Hayes has struggled to develop this season amid injuries, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Since being shifted to a bench role, Hayes has at least been able to expect a certain amount of guaranteed run when he is available. “I’ve gotten used to coming off the bench at the five- or six-minute mark but starting and just getting back to that rhythm, it’s right into the game,” Hayes said. “You don’t have time to go back to the locker room and see how the game goes, so just be ready. I think I’m ready for both (starting and reserve roles).”

Central Notes: Caruso, DeRozan, LeVert, Bey

Bulls guard Alex Caruso admits he’s still not 100 percent healthy yet after returning from a fractured right wrist that sidelined him for 22 games, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

It just gets hit, banged up a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just sore. It’s just going to take time,” Caruso said. “We took a very aggressive rehab schedule and ramp-up schedule so I could get back with the team and try to play. It just kind of comes with the territory.

I’m not 100 percent. I’m not going to lie to you. But it’s moreso just the rhythm of the game. Try not to make excuses, but that seven weeks is tough. I didn’t get any practices or anything. Just right back in the game. I got high standards for how I want to play, how I want the team to play. And I don’t think I’m doing my part as well I can right now, which is frustrating.”

Johnson notes the Bulls were a strong defensive team at the beginning of the season with both Caruso and Lonzo Ball healthy, but have slipped to 18th in the league in defensive rating following their injuries. The Bulls are just 2-7 in their last nine games, including consecutive road losses in Sacramento and Utah, where they gave up 112 and 125 points, respectively.

At 41-28, the Bulls are currently the fifth seed in the East. They have a difficult remaining schedule, with 11 of their last 13 games against teams vying for the play-in or the playoffs.

Here are a few more notes from the Central Division:

  • DeMar DeRozan‘s influence on the Bulls is similar to the way Chris Paul has impacted winning throughout his career, Johnson writes in a separate article for NBC Sports Chicago. Coach Billy Donovan has coached both players and compared their leadership qualities. “They’re two totally different players, two totally different people,” Donovan said. “But the impact that Chris made that I saw in Oklahoma and now seeing the impact that DeMar made, you can just see how they’ve kind of galvanized the group and they’ve got everybody together. It’s because of how humble they are, how team-oriented they are, how competitive they are and how much they both want to win.” For his part, DeRozan says he’s just focused on the grind. “I try to be the same person every day and carry that over to my teammates and to my work,” DeRozan said. “That’s how I lead.”
  • Kelsey Russo of The Athletic details how Caris LeVert has been acclimating to the Cavaliers. LeVert, who recently returned from a nine-game absence after suffering a sprained foot, admits it was difficult dealing with the injury, but he’s enjoying his time in Cleveland. “It’s been fun for me, to be honest with you,” LeVert said. “I try to look at it as a positive challenge for me; it’s just getting better. I know we’re playing for something, playing for the playoffs or playing for a championship. So that’s what gets me going in every morning.”
  • Second-year forward Saddiq Bey helped the Pistons snap a four-game losing streak on Thursday by scoring a career-high 51 points, writes Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press. Bey became the seventh Piston to score 50-plus in a game and tied Hall of Famer Joe Dumars‘ franchise record with 10 threes made (on 14 attempts), Sankofa notes. Bey finished with an eye-popping 51 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals on 17-of-27 shooting in the team’s 134-120 victory over Orlando.