The Chicago Bulls surprised everyone this year with their inspired play out of the gate. Once power forward Patrick Williams went down, most fair-weather-fans wrote the team off – since they didn’t even have a backup power forward on the roster.
But somehow this overachieving team have been at or near the top of the Eastern Conference standings all year. They did this with 6’4 shooting guard Javonte Green starting at power forward, and three of their top defenders out with injury (Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Williams).
Now with the acquisition of big man Tristan Thompson and as the other pieces of the puzzle start to return from the injured list, the Bulls are in prime position to be a dominating force in the NBA Playoffs.
The first of the trio of injured stars to make their return to the hardwood was Alex Caruso. Caruso came off the bench on Saturday, March 12 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are a good team, but Caruso helped spark an impressive and much needed win.
The stat sheet doesn’t always reflet the impact Caruso has on a game. He has an amazingly high basketball IQ and will probably make a fantastic coach when his playing days are done. He is always talking on defense – like a middle linebacker recognizing weaknesses and calling out adjustments for his teammates to make.
Caruso is also an energy guy. He has one running speed – and it is high octane. When he comes on the floor, defensive intensity goes up. He also pushes the offense, revving up ball movement and scoring opportunities. Not only does he bring this energy when he enters the game, his teammates on the floor are infected by the intensity and up their game as well.
Caruso, who won a championship in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers, is an inspirational success story. Undrafted out of college, Caruso fought his way onto the Philadelphia 76ers 2016 NBA Summer League Team. For the regular season, he was signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was ultimately released.
Alex Caruso has tenacity. He sets his mind on a goal and he achieves it. He takes his share of bumps and bruises along the way, but in the end, he always gets the job done.
After getting cut by the Thunder, a lot of players would have given up. Not Caruso. He signed with the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA Development League for the 2016-17 season. He played hard and made a reputation for himself.
For the 2017-18 season he landed with the Los Angeles Lakers on a two-way contract that would allow him to play for the Lakers as well as their minor league affiliate (the South Bay Lakers). After helping the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2017 NBA Summer League Championship, he became the first player to go directly from the development league (now called the G-League) to the NBA via two-way contract. He was named second-team All-NBA G-League in 2018.
Going into the 2018-19 season, Caruso again signed a two-way contract with the Lakers. He scored his career high 32 points in an April 5 victory of the Los Angeles Clippers. He was also the only Laker that year other than LeBron James to net a 30+ point game with 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists.
Finally in 2019, after years of proving himself with blood, sweat, and tears, Caruso was rewarded with a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won his first NBA championship with them in October 2020. He even started in the final game to clinch the title.
After becoming an unrestricted free agent, Caruso signed a four-year deal with the Chicago Bulls on August 10, 2021. It is now deemed in retrospect to be an extremely high impact signing. Caruso has been very effective in his short time with the Bulls. Offering advice from the bench, Caruso has even been instrumental during his recovery from wrist surgery.
With the Bulls expected to be a full force by the time the NBA Playoffs start, they are going to be a dangerous team. Caruso is a big part of what makes this team such a serious contender.
There are three teams that the Bulls could struggle with the most: Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and Golden State Warriors.
In the East, the 76ers are a problem because Joel Embiid is an unstoppable force. Nobody else on that team scares me. Yes, I respect the other players on the team, but none of them is as dominant as Embiid. As a player, Embiid has never lost to the Bulls.
There are other teams in the East that are dangerous. The Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks are tough matchups. But none of those teams are ones that the Bulls can’t beat in a seven-game series.
The Warriors and Suns are matchup problems for the Bulls in their own ways. Thankfully, the Bulls would only have to face one of the two in the Playoffs – should the Bulls get to the NBA Finals.
As a longtime Bulls fan, I have loved the team through some pretty lean years. The Bulls aren’t a guarantee to win the title this year, but they’re in the mix. Anything could happen.
At the end of the day, it’s fun to be a serious contender again – and Alex Caruso is a big part of that. All hail, the Bald Mamba.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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