Alex Caruso Thanks Off-Court Work for His Career-High in Games

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Alex Caruso Thanks Off-Court Work for His Career-High in Games

Chicago Bulls

While the Chicago Bulls may have had a season to forget, Alex Caruso had the exact opposite.

The 29-year-old guard continued to prove that he is one of the NBA’s elite defenders. Not only was he one of just three players to finish with at least 98 steals and 46 blocks, but Dunks & Threes granted him the highest estimated defensive plus-minus of anyone in the league at +4.1. There is no question he was the catalyst for the Bulls’ finishing the year as a top-5 defensive unit. And it sure feels like his first-ever All-Defensive team nod could be on the horizon.

Likewise, Caruso finished the year appearing in a career-high 67 games. He had failed to crash the 60-game threshold in each of his previous two seasons. The Chicago Bulls can only hope the 2022-23 campaign is a sign of what’s to come. And it sure sounds like Caruso is working hard to ensure that’s the case.

In a recent interview with Uproxx, Caruso spoke about how much he focused on staying available this season. He pointed toward an even stricter off-court regimen to help keep his body prepared for his aggressive style of play.

I think it was just the professionalism,” Caruso told Uproxx’s Bill Difilippo. “I think I had a great routine this year as far as training table work before practice, making sure that I get lifts during the year, having my activation before the games, taking care of my body after the games, sleeping enough, getting the right nutrition, and then putting the work in to maintain the level that was necessary. I think for me, it was probably just doubling down on being a professional.”

I don’t think any of this insinuates that Caruso wasn’t previously trying to put in the work off the floor. However, there is a good chance the defensive menace realized just how taxing his style of play tends to be, especially as he looks toward turning 30 next season.

Whether it be flying in front of Giannis Antetokounmpo for a charge, diving with anyone and everyone for a loose ball, or simply encouraging his teammates to get back in transition, Caruso is at his best when making the hustle plays. And the more he’s available to do that, the better his team is going to be.

Arnold Lee [Bulls Assistant Athletic Trainer], that’s the guy that I worked with the most and I’ll give him a quick shout out,” Caruso said of his behind-the-scenes work. “But just being consistent, him understanding what happens with my body throughout the season, being able to manage — I had some left foot issues that were going on, and being able to minimize missed games with that. And just keeping on top of it, whether it was stretching before practices and getting treatment an hour, hour and a half before anybody needed to be there, to being at the same … you know, 90 on the clock is when I usually shot pregame. So, two hours before, we’re on the training table getting stretched, and I’m going to the weight room to get activation. Just having that routine I think really opened up for me to have such a good year.”

The Chicago Bulls averaged -6.9 points per 100 possessions when Caruso was on the floor this season versus off the floor. That sat in the NBA’s 94th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. The Bulls TOV% also saw a boost of +3.4 percent, which ranked in the league’s 97th percentile. But all it actually takes is the eye test to know how much better Caruso’s team performs when he is readily available.

Anyway, the goal now is to see Alex Caruso amass his career-high again next season. Especially with Lonzo Ball remaining sidelined, the Bulls’ defense will only continue to go as far as Caruso takes it.

Author: Elias Schuster

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