Alex Caruso

Alex Caruso knows Bulls need to tackle injury absences with collective effort

All-Defensive member will face more physical matchups with Patrick Williams lost for season

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Patrick Williams returned from his All-Star break early last Saturday to begin ramping up for what he envisioned would be a return to the Chicago Bulls’ lineup by the end of the month.

Imagine the fourth-year forward’s surprise, then, when he went in for routine imaging to see how his left foot had progressed from a January 25 diagnosis of bone edema, only to find he had a stress fracture.

“It’s a lot at one time to go from thinking you are ramping up to play on Tuesday to a couple of days later having to have surgery,” a visibly emotional Williams said Saturday at the Advocate Center.

Williams wore a walking boot for three weeks to immobilize the foot, which eliminated his discomfort for non-basketball activities. He said his three workouts over All-Star break produced pain of 2 on a scale of 1-10, which he thought was normal.

Then came the routine check-up.

“That night they called me and let me know they kind of saw a line in the navicular bone, which kind of meant it was a fracture there,” Williams said. “For me, it was kind of frustrating because I think I’m kind of ramping up and shooting at a date the end of this month to come back. And when you hear (season-ending surgery), it is kind of devastating.”

Williams said his surgery is scheduled for March 6 in New York but that it could be pushed earlier. Once that’s completed, he’ll decide on a home base for rehabilitation, though he hinted at wanting to be around his teammates as much as possible.

It’s the second time in four seasons, following wrist surgery in his second season, that Williams has had surgery cut short his promise. He did play all 82 games last season.

“Rehab is in a sense the same as the game; what you put into it you are going to get out of it,” Williams said. “I know I will (put everything into it) because that’s the focus now. That’s my 100 percent focus now getting back on that court.”

Williams said he hopes to be on the court in July.

The Bulls’ season long will be over by then. And with Williams soon joining Zach LaVine in the season-ending surgery department and Torrey Craig sidelined for multiple more weeks, Alex Caruso knows his matchups will be physical.

“Hopefully, Torrey is not too far away, relative for whatever the NBA schedule is. That will help getting him back. And then it’s just by committee,” Caruso said. “We’ve been playing the big lineup with Drum (Andre Drummond) and Vooch (Nikola Vucevic), which I think we’ve had some success with. I can (play) makeshift four for majority of games. But it’s going to take more guys, maybe more schemes to get the ball out of some guys hands when they catch it low close to the basket.

“If there’s any silver lining, we’ve seen this before because we’ve been shorthanded at that position. We at least have a little to go off of. But it’s going to have to be by committee. We’re going to have to do a better job covering up for each other. Maybe throw some more wrinkles into the game plan of coverages and giving different looks, a little more gimmicky stuff to buy us minutes here and there. It’s also time for the young guys to step into their own and be who they are. They’ve shown to us they can play and have shown to us they’re good players. It’s time for them to believe.”

That means Julian Phillips and Dalen Terry will have to step up to make sure Caruso isn’t ground into the ground playing power forward.

“I feel good,” Caruso said. “Got a couple golf rounds in over the break. Mental health is good. Physically, foot is better. Groin was a little shaken up but everything feels really good.”

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