Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso was able to play in Monday night’s 114-107 victory against the Utah Jazz after leaving the team’s overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday with a right ankle sprain.
Caruso had five points and six rebounds in 27 minutes as the Bulls rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit. DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 26 points, while ex-Bull Lauri Markkanen scored a game-high 32 for the Jazz, including 7-of-11 3-point shooting.
Coach Billy Donovan said Caruso asked to be removed from Friday’s game after planting his foot awkwardly twice in the final two minutes of overtime. The request was a rarity from Caruso — who often plays through injury — and garnered immediate concern from the Bulls coaching and medical staffs. Second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu closed the game in Caruso’s place.
“It was very mild,” Donovan said before Monday’s game. “It just got to a point where he couldn’t move very well.”
Caruso was listed as questionable Monday after sitting out all contact activity over the weekend. However, Donovan said he was confident in Caruso’s availability against the Jazz and for the remainder of the West Coast trip.
Caruso spent the offseason focused on injury prevention after missing half of last season with a series of ailments, including a broken wrist, back spasms and injuries to his hamstring, ankle and foot.
After mostly coming off the bench with the Los Angeles Lakers, Caruso partially attributed the rise in injuries to his increased playing time for the Bulls, which doesn’t always mesh with his all-out approach to defense. But Caruso said he doesn’t want to back off that style just because he’s getting more minutes in Chicago.
“It’s really important for me to be out there playing,” Caruso said in October. “I don’t think I change the way I play — that’s what got me here. That’s why the Bulls want me on the team. That’s why Billy loves what I do with my energy, my defense and how I bring other guys along.”
Donovan said the Bulls have no desire to see Caruso curtail his physicality to protect himself from injuries. But Donovan said he will need to balance Caruso’s minutes to ensure he isn’t overexerting himself and leaving his body vulnerable to injury.
“He’s going to play hard and I want him to be who he is,” Donovan said. “The biggest thing we’re trying to do is to be conscientious of his minutes. He does play so hard, so if there’s a loose ball, he’s going to go hard, you know.
“But from my perspective, I’m just trying to manage how hard he does play and compete in relationship to the number of minutes he’s getting.”