Alex Caruso’s Perfectly-Timed Return Comes as Bulls Receive Brutal Lonzo Ball Injury Update

The Chicago Bulls looked like a more energized team during Wednesday night’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Alex Caruso’s return to the rotation had plenty to do with the Bulls snapping a four-game losing streak. His presence with the team has become all the more vital after the latest Lonzo Ball injury news.

Chicago had already been without Ball and Zach LaVine for the past three games. While LaVine’s MRI came back clean and his knee appears to respond to treatment, more testing on Ball’s knee revealed a more severe injury that could keep him out for a few weeks.

With Ball on the shelf, the Bulls need their other backcourt players to step up. Getting Caruso back on the floor is a perfectly-timed development. It showed against the Cavs.

Alex Caruso made an instant impact in his return to the Bulls lineup

Wednesday’s showdown between the Bulls and Cavaliers offered a fascinating look at two teams that have made their way to the top of the Eastern Conference in different fashions. Both squads also entered the contest heading in separate directions.

The Bulls’ four-game losing streak dropped them back to the field in the conference standings. Meanwhile, the Cavs had pulled within striking distance after a five-game winning streak.

Chicago needed some extra life to help stop the skid. It got just that from Alex Caruso.

The 27-year-old missed Chicago’s previous 13 games, first with a foot injury and later entering into health and safety protocols. He played like a guy who yearned to get back on the floor, sprinting to the middle of the court during timeouts and constantly communicating with teammates.

Caruso’s energy had a legitimate impact on the game. He shot just 2-of-8 from the floor but still finished the contest +18 in plus-minus. The Texan made his mark on the defensive end, guarding practically everyone on the floor and helping the Bulls force 14 turnovers. He also had an enormous chase-down block that nearly tore the roof off the United Center.

Chicago came away with a big win and good vibes. However, those vibes turned slightly more sour after Thursday’s Lonzo Ball injury.

Caruso’s presence becomes important with tests revealing a slight meniscus tear for Lonzo Ball

After earning a massive win against the Cavs, the Bulls got hit with a metaphorical anvil just over 12 hours later.

Lonzo Ball’s previously undiagnosed knee injury is actually a slight meniscus tear. Ball and the Bulls have yet to make a concrete decision regarding surgery, per ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, but an arthroscopic procedure could keep him out 4-to-6 weeks.

The news comes as a blow to Chicago. Ball gave the Bulls a certain element of steadiness and floor-spacing at the point guard. He had been on a historic pace before hitting the shelf, making a difference in nearly every facet of the game. The Chino Hills native provided essential defensive savvy and playmaking.

Caruso has become that much more important to the Bulls. He infuses the team with confidence on the defensive end as a guy who takes on the challenge of guarding 1-through-5, forces deflections, and constantly hunts loose balls.

Moreover, Caruso can act as an important secondary ball-handler. He’s not the most adept shot-creator. Still, he can set up an offense, space the floor, and typically makes the right basketball play.

Additionally, Caruso can act as a calming and motivational influence for Chicago’s other guards.

Setting the tone for the young guys

Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso goes for a layup during an NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers
Alex Caruso #6 of the Chicago Bulls shoots against Jarrett Allen #31 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during a game on January 19, 2022 | Quinn Harris/Getty Images

One of the few positives amidst Chicago’s woeful losing streak had been the play of young guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.

Both men entered the starting lineup with both Ball and LaVine injured. They’ve made the most of those opportunities. Even with Caruso reentering the rotation, White and Dosunmu elevated their play.

White scored 16 points on a somewhat mediocre 5-of-11 shooting. But he looked more inspired than ever defensively, recording a season-high four steals. Caruso’s defense allowed him to play the passing lanes, and he executed cleaner defensive rotations to stay in a strong guarding position.

Dosunmu showed off his on-ball defense against Ja Morant during a nationally-televised showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But he’s grown as a playmaker. The former University of Illinois star had 18 points and eight assists against the Cavs.

The Bulls are getting tremendous production from White and Dosunmu. Now, Caruso is back to set the tone defensively and instill added confidence in the rest of the backcourt. That’s a vital development in light of Lonzo Ball’s meniscus injury.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

RELATED: Bulls Star Zach LaVine’s Career Could Have Been Much Different Had It Not Been for a $78 Million Gamble in 2018