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“It’s a different style of basketball” – The Mercury News

For Alex Caruso, game day prep doesn’t change regardless of his position in the Chicago Bulls rotation.

There are physical basics – warm up more vigorously if he starts, make sure you stay alert and loose if he’s on the bench – but Caruso feels his role remains the same whether he starts or not.

“Mentally, I’m flipping that switch a little earlier,” Caruso said.

Caruso is already back in a familiar carousel of uncertainty this season. He was set to be a bench boss for the Bulls, leading a reinvigorated secondary unit that includes offseason additions Goran Dragić and Andre Drummond.

But Zach LaVine’s lingering left knee injury now requires more flexibility from Caruso, who will be in and out of the starting lineup on a game-by-game basis until LaVine is fully healthy. Caruso started for the second straight game Friday against the Washington Wizards.

Trading LaVine for Caruso creates a different look for the Bulls. No team will have a similar replacement for a max-contract star like LaVine, who averaged 24.4 points per game despite being injured in the second half of last season.

Caruso is an enabler — averaging 7.4 points and four assists last season — and isn’t aiming to replace LaVine’s scoring. But his inclusion in the starting lineup allows the Bulls to start the game with an emphasis on pace, pushing the rotation of the ball alongside second-year point guard Ayo Dosunmu to expand the ground and feed leading scorer DeMar DeRozan. .

While the Bulls will miss LaVine deeply, Caruso sees that versatility as a silver lining.

“Teams are going to have to prepare differently depending on who we have on the pitch,” Caruso said. “We might drop a few points, but we’re catching up with more scouting action with me. It’s a different style of basketball, but I don’t think it’s too backward.

The Bulls capitalized on the season-opening win over the Miami Heat, moving the ball more efficiently to keep one of the most physical defenses in the league on their back foot. Caruso finished the game with the type of under-the-radar stat line that has become his norm — six points, four assists, five rebounds and two steals.

With Caruso and Dosunmu guiding the offense, the Bulls also noticeably improved their transition, quickly moving the ball upfield against the Heat.

It doesn’t always show in the box score — the Bulls scored just eight of their 116 points in transition — but their insistence on picking up the pace kept the team from getting bogged down in halfback setups. unimaginative terrain.

“Transition is one of the toughest times for defenses to tackle guys and match up and play their principles defensively,” Caruso said. “It’s just trying to create that advantage before we can settle.”

Caruso believes the upside is a particular benefit of playing with the ball alongside Dosunmu, who is playing in the leading role this season as a substitute for Lonzo Ball during his extended injury absence.

Last season, Caruso served as a substitute playmaker, rarely playing off the ball alongside Dosunmu. But with the addition of Dragić, Caruso can factor in more rotations as an enabling goalkeeper, giving the team more punch in transition and on the half-court.

And guard adaptability will be key to the Bulls’ approach.

“That’s the unique thing about our team,” Caruso said. “Both of us – including a few other guards too – can play with the ball as well as on the ball. We fill the ball seamlessly, we can play in addition to any action that happens if we have the ball. We try to be strong and structured and put everyone in place where they need to be.

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California Daily Newspapers

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