Alex Caruso's Return? Shorthanded Cavaliers, Lonzo Talks Rehab, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Alex Caruso’s Return? Shorthanded Cavaliers, Lonzo Talks Rehab, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I don’t think I realized just how little Alex Caruso has played this season. And realizing it stinks.

The Chicago Bulls’ defensive stopper has been on the floor for just 28 of the team’s 66 games thus far. He’s dealt with a number of bumps and bruises along the way, one of the most significant of which was a foot injury that kept him on the sideline for 13 games from December 20th to January 19th. The Carushow then came back to town for only two games before Grayson Allen decided to be a massive jerk, shattering his wrist and forcing him to miss the next 22 games. Will it become 23 tonight?

Caruso practiced in full with the Bulls on Friday afternoon. Head coach Billy Donovan did not say whether or not Caruso would receive the green light to rejoin the rotation this evening, but the door was left open with a “questionable” designation on the team’s official injury report.

The Chicago Tribune’s Julia Poe also reported this morning that Caruso was on the floor at the end of shootaround getting extra shots up. So … keep crossing those fingers, toes, arms, legs, eyes, and whatever else is humanly possible, because we all know how much better this Bulls team can be with him on the floor.

•   Ayo Dosunmu, Nikola Vucevic, and Zach LaVine have also appeared on the team’s latest injury report. Dosunmu is dealing with a groin issue while Vucevic is still nursing a hamstring injury. Fortunately, both remain in line to suit up tonight and are listed as “probable.” LaVine’s situation is worth monitoring a bit closer. We all know he is playing at less than 100 percent, but it’s never a particularly good sign when a player has to miss practice.

•   Not to mention, Poe also shared this morning that she didn’t see LaVine among the players getting extra shots up at shootaround. Of course, considering this lingering issue, none of this is reason enough to confidently say he will not be on the floor tonight. He was listed as questionable for a reason, and my gut tells me this was all mostly about giving him some extra rest so he could be available for this matchup.

•   As far as I’m concerned both the upcoming games with the Cavs fall under the must-win category. Considering Cleveland sits just 2.0 games behind Chicago in the last remaining sure-fire playoff spot, the Bulls must not allow the Cavs to make up any ground in these final two regular-season battles (they meet again on March 26th). Control what you can control. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, especially when we consider how good the Cavs have been all season long. But there has arguably been no better time to catch this Cavs team this year. All-Star center Jarrett Allen could miss the rest of the regular season with a finger injury. Meanwhile, sparkplug scorer Caris LeVert remains sidelined with a foot injury. Cleveland has won just three of their last 10 games, and they walk into the United Center tonight on the backend of a back-to-back.

•   The Bulls simply have to take advantage of all those factors, and it starts with putting real pressure at the rim. While the elite rookie defender Evan Mobley remains in the frontcourt, the absence of Allen should leave room to work inside. Not only should the Bulls try to establish Vucevic’s presence early on – who had 24 points and 12 rebounds against this team on January 19th – but LaVine and DeRozan must get downhill as they did on Wednesday night in Detroit. The Cavaliers normally allow the fewest free-throw attempts per game, but Allen is a big season why, and we saw that on display last night as the Heat shot 24-27 from the line and outscored the Cavs 58-46 in the paint.

•   Guess who never called Caruso? Yup!

•   In the latest episode of BullsTV’s All-Access, Lonzo Ball said he is feeling good and hopes to return to the floor “as soon as possible.” We got a closer look at some of the rehab work he’s put in, but exactly how quickly he’s progressing remains unclear. The Bulls have been optimistic they will have a fully healthy team back on the floor by the end of the regular season, and I would guess that’s still the case. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Ball will be the last of the three injured players to return. We could see Caruso as soon as tonight, and Patrick Williams started to participate in practice on a minimal-contact level this week. We are six weeks into Ball’s 6-8 week recovery timeline.

•   OLD FRIEND ALERT.

•   The MLB drama is heating up.

•   And so is the football drama …


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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.