Alex Caruso

Bulls' Alex Caruso appreciates defensive base Thunder coach helped build

Alex Caruso earned first-team All-Defense honors last season.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Billy Donovan isn’t the only member of the Chicago Bulls with a strong connection to Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault.

Donovan, who worked with Daigneault at Florida in college and with the Thunder, unleashes Alex Caruso to spearhead the Bulls’ defense.

Defensive principles that Caruso credits Daigneault for helping him hone during the 2016-17 season they shared working for the Oklahoma City Blue in the G League.

“We drilled every day---stick hand, closeouts, shell defense, the most basic boring defensive drills,” Caruso said. “I took them seriously. That’s just the person I am. I’m going to put 100 percent into whatever it is that we’re doing.

“It was just the repetitions of getting it right and being able to carry that over to NBA games. It was habit at that point. It wasn’t something that I had to think about. A lot of that, I give credit to Mark for setting up the practices like that, coaching it and teaching us to be present.”

Caruso has risen to earn first-team All-Defense honors for the first time last season. Daigneault, who replaced Donovan and is in his fourth season with the Thunder, is the third-youngest head coach in the NBA and widely regarded for his sharp mind.

None of this surprises Caruso.

“He coaches and talks exactly the same as he did with the Blue,” Caruso said. “He was always keeping us in really good perspective of how to play and how we were going to be successful. I really enjoyed playing for him.”

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