PARIS – There’s been plenty of time to drink the Parisian wines and partake in the fine cheeses.
Alex Caruso was all for that since the Bulls landed in Paris on Monday.
The guard made it very clear to his teammates that Wednesday was the start of business from here on out, and that needed to be understood by the starting five all the way down to the 15th man on the roster on this Paris Games trip.
“That’s just part of the responsibility of being a professional athlete,” Caruso said after the team’s practice at the Paalais des sports Marcel-Cerdan. “If you can’t have fun and then come back and focus, get ready to do your job – this is a job at the end of the day – then you probably shouldn’t be here.
“So for me it’s a pretty easy situation. Have your fun on the days you can have fun, and then [Thursday] you’re playing a basketball game that counts on our schedule, counts on our record.”
And could count in helping the front office to start making decisions on being buyers or sellers as the Feb. 9 trade deadline looms.
At 20-24 and sitting in the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference, Caruso & Co. know that there’s been far too many disappointing nights and reasons for executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to have his doubts about this team.
By all accounts, however, he hasn’t yet. The next few weeks could go a long way in reiterating his beliefs, and the players know that.
“We’ve won a lot of games that we thought we could and lost games that we shouldn’t have,” two-time All-Star Zach LaVine said. “It’s frustrating that we couldn’t play at that level consistently each game. But obviously, there’s a lot of season left and time to turn it around. We have great players. We all like each other. And we understand what’s at stake. You keep playing like this, you’re not going to be in the position you want to. So better start racking them up.
“The more you win, everybody is happy. If you lose, everybody is pointing fingers and looking over their shoulder. Obviously, we don’t want that. And the front office doesn’t want that. We can continue this winning streak in Paris and keep it going and see what happens. Obviously, they have to do their job and we have to do ours.”
If they don’t, there’s really not a safe player on the entire Bulls roster. LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic could all be discussed in trade scenarios and realistically be elsewhere when the deadline comes and goes.
Even small pieces like a Coby White or Derrick Jones Jr. could be sent out if Karnisovas was looking for a small tweak to the roster dynamics.
According to a source, Caruso could be the one untouchable just because of how valuable he is defensively and in the plus/minus category, but all that remained to be seen.
First things first were beating the Pistons on Thursday, and then getting back to the states for a huge stretch of winnable games.
“It’s on the level of we want to win,” Caruso said. “We think we’re a good team. And we want to be a good team. I don’t think anybody’s motivation is don’t get guys traded or don’t make moves. I think it’s more so of let’s play to our potential and be the team we’re capable of being.
“I think the coaching staff has done a good job of putting us in positions to do that. I think it more so falls on the players. Step up and win games. Professional sports, you win games and everything goes away. Winning solves everything. At the end of the day, you gotta show up and do your job.”