Alex Caruso says he expects to play for Chicago Bulls despite ankle injury: ‘There’s nothing to hold back’

Alex Caruso says he expects to play for Chicago Bulls despite ankle injury: ‘There’s nothing to hold back’

MIAMI — Alex Caruso expects to play in Friday’s play-in tournament rematch against the Miami Heat, giving the Chicago Bulls a serious defensive lift as they try to return to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2022.

When Caruso crashed into teammate Andre Drummond midway through Wednesday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls braced for the worst. Caruso exited the game favoring his left ankle and went to the locker room.

He attempted to return in the third quarter, but after a few minutes on the court, it was clear Caruso wasn’t moving with comfort, forcing coach Billy Donovan to pull him for good.

Before the game even ended, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Caruso had suffered a “significant” ankle sprain. But less than 48 hours later, Caruso expressed confidence he’s ready to return to the court to help the Bulls secure a spot in a first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

Caruso is known — and beloved by fans, coaches and teammates — for not having an off switch. If he’s on the court, he’s going all out, which often means diving on the hardwood and into the crowd for loose balls. That won’t change Friday night, regardless of his injury.

“There’s nothing to hold back,” Caruso told the Tribune on Friday morning. “Just re-lock in and understand that if you lose, the season’s over. And if you win, you get to keep playing. There’s nothing else to say.”

Caruso had said after Wednesday’s game he expected to be available Friday, citing his body’s tendency not to swell up after soft-tissue injuries. He has developed a consistent routine for the first 24 hours after aggravating his left ankle: an ultrasound to confirm the injury isn’t serious, then compression, rest and ice to manage swelling.

Assistant athletic trainer Arnold Lee aids in this recovery process, ensuring that Caruso feels confident before a game in his ability to sprint and cut. Once the adrenaline kicks in, Caruso said he’s typically good to go for a full game.

“I’ve been pretty good at it,” he said. “The last four weeks I’ve been dealing with it, so I have a little routine. It’s been going good. Arnie’s been taking good care of me.”

Caruso’s availability would be a big momentum boost for the Bulls against a Heat team that will be without star forward Jimmy Butler, who suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during Wednesday’s play-in loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. But Caruso emphasized that the Heat pose a considerable threat even without Butler on the court.

“Offensively and defensively, Miami on paper might not have as many weapons as the Hawks in the frontcourt at least, but they still have capable guys,” Caruso said. “They have a history of making shots. Miami’s a well-coached team and organization. They’re going to be prepared, and we understand that no matter who plays for them, they’ll have a game plan.”