Javonte Green’s absence from Saturday’s home victory over the Dallas Mavericks is why Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan is hesitant to say Alex Caruso is definitely playing on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks.
“But he’s certainly moving closer to playing,” Donovan said following Tuesday’s practice at the Advocate Center.
Green practiced last Friday after missing games with soreness in his right knee but then didn’t feel right the next day, delaying his return until Sunday’s road loss in Atlanta. Caruso, who left Saturday’s game in the first quarter with a tailbone contusion and missed Sunday’s game, also returned to practice.
“Not sore. No pain. Moving around. So that’s a positive,” Caruso said. “Nothing is for sure, but I’m feeling good. So I’m hopeful I can play.”
The news isn’t as promising for Ayo Dosunmu, who didn’t practice Tuesday after leaving Sunday’s game early with an abdominal contusion.
“I think he’d have to show some pretty good improvement,” Donovan said of Dosunmu’s chances of playing on Wednesday. “He’s working a lot in terms of his treatment.”
So the safe bet is, barring pain developing overnight or following Wednesday’s morning shootaround, Caruso returns while Dosunmu sits. The Bulls certainly have enough guard depth to weather the minor injuries this week, which features the rare home-and-home series against the Knicks.
Caruso, though, is one of the more important cogs given his defensive prowess and overall acumen on the court. Given how often he yells out opposing sets before they’re run when the Bulls face a different opponent each night, just think what Caruso may do seeing the same opponent two games in a row.
“I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” Caruso said, when asked overall how he thinks the Bulls’ defense currently is playing. “Obviously missing Lonzo (Ball) is a hit just because of how good a defender and how smart he is. But I feel we’ve done a good job of playing for each other, contesting shots, playing with extra effort, making rotations.
“I think it’s about making sure we’re doing it every time rather than 75-80 percent of the time.”
Caruso talked about stealing a possession a quarter. Do that and it’s eight points off the board for the opponent and no longer putting the Bulls in such close contests. So adept at prevailing in “clutch games” last season, which are defined by NBA.com as games within five points or less with 5 minutes to play, the Bulls are just 3-10 in such instances this season.
And they’re of course coming off a buzzer-beating, overtime loss to the Hawks, while the Knicks enter with a four-game win streak.
“We’re really close,” Caruso insisted. “Little things can change the game. One possession here or there, (you) can go from the sixth seed to out of the play-in. That’s just kind of where the league stands. Hopefully we can lock in and execute late game and get some of these turned around in our favor.”