The Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks have a geographic rivalry that, for the most part, has been pleasant. But things turned ugly after an incident involving Bucks guard Grayson Allen and Bulls guard Alex Caruso on Friday night.
Allen fouled Caruso hard, slamming the fifth-year veteran into the ground. The foul, which cost Allen the rest of the game, drew the ire of Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, as well as the injured Caruso himself.
Grayson Allen was ejected after his rough foul on Alex Caruso
Despite missing key players Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball, the Bulls hung tough against the defending champion Bucks. Chicago was down a single point at halftime and continued to keep the gap close all throughout the night.
Trailing 55-54 with 5:45 left in the third quarter, Caruso received a fast-break feed from Ayo Dosunmu and went up for the layup. The sprinting Allen met him in mid-air in what appeared to look like a block attempt. However, as Allen’s left arm went up for the block, his right arm took a hard swipe at Caruso, sending the 27-year-old flying into the ground.
Upon replay review, the foul was ruled “Flagrant 2”, resulting in Allen’s ejection. It’s the first NBA ejection for the former Duke star, now in his fourth NBA season and first with Milwaukee.
“I think it’s a close call,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told ESPN. “They went with Flagrant 2 and I’m not gonna disagree. It’s right on the border and that’s the direction they went. Just hope for Caruso to be healthy and fine coming out of it. Unfortunate for Grayson, unfortunate for us to have to finish without him. It’s a tough call, but that’s the way they went.”
Despite losing Allen for the final 17+ minutes of game time, Milwaukee held on to defeat Chicago 94-90. Meanwhile, Caruso underwent X-Rays after the game and is now set to undergo surgery for a wrist fracture, sidelining him for the next six to eight weeks.
Billy Donovan let Allen have it after the game
While Budenholzer saw the foul as a close call, the Bulls bench felt otherwise. Arguably none more so than Donovan, the longtime coach in his second year with Chicago.
Following the game, Donovan spoke to the media to discuss the hard foul Allen committed on his player (h/t: K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago).
“For Alex to be in the air and for [Allen] to take him down like that, he could’ve ended his career. And he has a history of this. That to me was really dangerous. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because that could have really, really seriously hurt him.”Billy Donovan
“Maybe he didn’t mean to do it, I don’t know,” Donovan also added via SI. “I just know the play looked really, really bad on a guy that has a history of doing that all the way back into college. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that. Because God forbid this guy was in a stretcher going out of the building right now. That would not be good.”
Caruso, now out for several weeks, also spoke to the incident after the game. The 6-foot-4 guard returned to action on Wednesday after missing 13 games with a sprained foot and COVID-19.
“Dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso told ESPN. “It’s kind of bulls***. I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”
Grayson Allen has a history of being a dirty player
The foul on Caruso wouldn’t have looked good coming from anyone. Especially not Allen, who has built a reputation as a dirty player dating back to his time at Duke.
In 2016, the then-sophomore Allen tripped an opponent on Louisville. He tripped another player on Florida State just two weeks later. Once he arrived in the NBA, the controversial guard was called for two flagrant fouls within seconds of one another during a Summer League game in 2019, resulting in another ejection.
Allen’s reputation has followed him throughout his time in the pros. Despite serving as a valuable role player for the Bucks, there’s a reason he’s now on his third team in only four years.
“I don’t think Grayson’s a dirty player,” teammate Khris Middleton told ESPN in defense of Allen. “He’s been great with us all season long. Competing. Defending. Never really crossing the line. So I think we’re all disappointed to see him ejected for that foul.”
Regardless of what Middleton or Budenholzer may say, it’s hard to argue with what transpired between Allen and Caruso. There’s currently been no word on a possible suspension or any additional punishment. But if it comes to that, don’t expect Allen’s reputation to do him any favors.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.