Bulls guard Alex Caruso still dealing with back issues into playoffs

MILWAUKEE – Alex Caruso won’t be fully healthy for this first-round playoff series.

That was stated by his coach, and then seen in his play in Sunday’s Game 1.

However, the Bulls have very little choice but to take the approach of Caruso just has to give them everything he’s got each game. That’s why Billy Donovan and the medical staff had him on a minutes watch, even with him beginning the series as a starter.

“He’s felt the best I think he has felt,” Donovan said. “Is he 100%? No, but he’s a lot better than he was those games before he sat out.

“I do think with Alex [minutes restrictions are] going to be somewhat important. I think if you start pushing him with his back up into the high 30s, I don’t that would be really, really wise. You want to see how he’s feeling in the game. He kind of throws his body in there and plays incredibly hard and physical, so we’ll have to see how he responds. I do think from a medical standpoint of where he’s at physically, there has been some talk about managing him and his minutes. It’s not something that’s 25. You start getting into the upper 30s and that’s something that won’t be good for him over a period of time.”

Caruso has been dealing with the back issues for weeks, and while his defense has been serviceable, where it seems to be bothering him is his offense. Specifically, his long-range shooting.

Caruso was a 35% shooter before the All-Star Break, but in his final five regular-season games, shot just 2-for-15.

Then in the first half against Milwaukee, Caruso was given three wide-open looks from three-point range and missed all three. He finished 1-for-5.

A definite concern, especially if the Bucks are going to continue double-teaming the likes of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, leaving Caruso wide open on the perimeter.

What no longer seemed to be a concern regarding Caruso, however, was this idea of bad blood still flowing with him and Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen.

It was Allen that disrupted Caruso’s stellar start to the year, picking up the infamous flagrant-2 in a Jan. 21 meeting, resulting in a fractured wrist and costing Caruso months.

Caruso called it a non-issue back in March, but both Derrick Jones Jr. and Nikola Vucevic did try to exact some revenge on Allen in regular-season games, with both Bulls players going to Allen’s head area on fouls.

According to Donovan, he hasn’t even heard a mention of it leading up to this playoff showdown.

“After it happened, I don’t think it was ever really an issue or it was brought back up with our team,” Donovan said. “These guys are pros. It’s over and done with, it’s been addressed.

“Maybe there was a little bit more of a storyline around the fact once we got ready to play them again after Alex had gotten hurt. But I have not heard anything at all or any talk like that. I think our guys realize that we’re playing against an outstanding team that’s won a world championship, is very seasoned, battle-tested, and we’ve got our hands full just playing basketball.”

Coachspeak

Leading into this first round series, the Bulls announced that assistant coaches Chris Fleming and Damian Cotter would miss Game 1 in Milwaukee, after testing positive for the coronavirus and going into the league’s health and safety protocol.

Donovan had no update on their return, but did say that they were working over Zoom throughout the week.

“We’ve kind of all gone through it, so everybody is still engaged, doing their job and trying to help where they can help,” Donovan said.

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