Tristan Thompson wasn’t even a member of the Chicago Bulls on the Jan. 21 night that Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen flagrantly fouled Alex Caruso, fracturing Caruso’s right wrist.
But, coincidentally, Thompson was in Milwaukee as the Bucks played host to his then-employer, the Sacramento Kings, the next night.
No matter what team Thompson plays for, he brings a physical mindset. And with the Bulls playing host to the Bucks in the much-anticipated rematch on Friday night at the United Center, Thompson is quite mindful that Caruso hasn’t played since that injury.
“(Expletive). Take one of my dogs out like that, we’re gonna have issues,” Thompson said via Zoom from Atlanta. “You gotta set the tone. That’s what Bulls basketball is about, setting the tone.
“What (Allen) did affected one of our guys, and I don’t think anyone should forget about that. So I’m pretty sure the United Center is gonna be rocking (Friday).
“I think guys have (it) in the back of their head. And if guys wanna play chippy, let’s play chippy. I like it. I like a little blood and sweat. I enjoy it. I like to wrestle. Everyone knows that.”
Unsurprisingly, Bulls coach Billy Donovan took a more diplomatic approach, particularly since the Bulls have lost three straight and dropped into third in the Eastern Conference, just one game ahead of the Bucks.
“We’re not getting back what happened,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to go out and play and compete against one of the best teams in the league.”
After the Bucks’ hard-fought victory on Jan. 21, both Donovan and Caruso vociferously decried Allen’s foul. Allen drew a flagrant-two and an ejection, which prompted the uncharacteristic outburst from Donovan.
“For Alex to be in the air like that and for [Allen] to take him down like that, it could’ve ended [Caruso’s] career,” Donovan said that night in Milwaukee. “And he (Allen) has a history of this. That, to me, was really dangerous. And I really hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because he could’ve really seriously hurt him.”
At that time, though, Caruso and the Bulls thought Caruso had avoided serious injury as initial X-rays proved negative. Only a follow-up MRI the next day revealed the fracture. Caruso underwent surgery two days later, one day after the league indeed suspended Allen for one game.
The Bucks took the unconventional step of releasing an official statement expressing their disagreement with the league ruling.
But none of that matters to Donovan, who is just focused on trying to stop the defensive bleeding and win a game.
“For us, I think we’ve got a lot more things we should be focused on as a team. We have to be much more focused on the little things we need to do,” he said Thursday night from Atlanta. “I would expect our guys to be professional and they’ll handle themselves the right way. That play is over and done with. It’s gone. We need to play better basketball.”