Thursday, May 9, 2024

“Increased Optimism” Toward One Bulls Injury Before Must-Win Friday Game


Chicago’s victory last night against the Atlanta Hawks did not come without a price tag; in this case, it was potentially losing one of their most improved players from a year ago. During the 2022-23 campaign, he was on the NBA’s First-Team All-Defense but offensively was often mute. This year, he’s nearly doubled his points per game on better-shooting percentages from the field and three-point territory, increased his rebounds and assists, and had more steals and blocks than a season ago. A lock for his second consecutive NBA All-Defensive honor, he’s battled many lower leg injuries that have kept him out of 26 games over the past two seasons. After an accidental trip from his teammate Andre Drummond, Adrian Wojnarowski reports that missing nearly the final two quarters of last night’s game was just the beginning of his time on the sidelines.

Alex Caruso “Game Time Decision” For Friday

After last night’s tumble, there was almost no scenario where Alex Caruso saw the floor on Friday night. Billy Donovan has consistently deferred to the team’s medical staff in situations like this, and with what they’re calling a “significant left ankle sprain,” 48 hours is simply too quick of a turnaround for his defensively menacing guard. During an on-court interview last night after the third quarter, Donovan said that he doubted Caruso saw the floor again that game, which was before any testing was done. He would not return in last night’s action. In a recent turn of events, some luck may finally be in Chicago’s favor in the injury department.

Averaging 10.1 points, 3.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game is only the beginning of what needs replacing when Caruso is not on the floor. He’s one of the most active, vocal, and experienced defenders in the NBA and raises the standard on that end of the floor for Chicago. The burden would fall to Ayo Dosunmu, Dalen Terry, and Jevon Carter to fill his shoes on Friday night.

Bulls’ Injury-Ridden Roster

The Bulls will head into Miami without a few critical pieces besides Alex Caruso, even if he can go. Zach LaVine has been sidelined for 57 games this season but was having one of the worst campaigns of his career when he was on the floor. Without LaVine, Chicago is 29-28 versus a 10-15 standing when he has played. Many attribute the emergence of Coby White to LaVine’s absence, forcing someone into a majority ball-handling and shot-taking role. Still, missing a two-time All-Star and career 20.5-points-per-game scorer hurts them in the scoring department.

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Patrick Williams will also be watching Friday’s game from the sidelines. He has only played 43 games this season due to injury, and he’s been shut down for the remainder of the year after undergoing surgery on his left foot. While his looming contract extension is an argument for another day, the Bulls will be missing another consistent scoring option, three-point threat, and their most versatile defender.

Even though he’s been sidelined for over two seasons now, it’s worth noting that Lonzo Ball is also an essential piece missing for Chicago. Newcomer Onuralp Bitim will also be out the remainder of the postseason, who only appeared in 23 games this year for the Bulls. While Miami may be without Butler, Rozier, and Richardson for tomorrow’s matchup, this has become a war of attrition as Chicago is without many of their regular rotational players too. Can the Bulls win a battle of the backups on Friday night, or will the offseason begin rather abruptly in the Windy City?

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