Alex Caruso comes to the Chicago Bulls as a defensive-minded guard. Of course, this is a need the Bulls are happy to fill. Caruso, for his part, knows that his role is to lock guys down and show grit on the floor. That was apparent as he answered questions from Chicago media on Friday. Here are some highlights from his introductory press conference.
Question: What stood out for you about the Bulls? Why did you choose to sign here?
Caruso's answers show that the front office and coaching staff wanted him here. He talked with both Artūras Karnišovas and Billy Donovan about playing for the Bulls, which seemed to play a significant factor.
"The Bulls were always one of the teams my agent said had some sort of interest. I honestly didn't understand that there was still room for me to be here after the Lonzo deal was announced. Shortly after that, my agent explained they were still interested—maybe even more so to add to the guard depth on the team. I talked to Billy [Donovan] and AK [Artūras Karnišovas] on the phone. The dominos fell how they did and it seemed like a good situation for me."
Question: You often get described as a tough player. What is toughness to you? How would you describe yourself in that sense?
Caruso is coming to the Bulls as their immediate best defender from the guard position. As a result, his toughness and defensive mentality are going to be his calling cards in Chicago. When answering this question, Caruso seemed up for the challenge.
"Toughness to me is just doing the right thing every time. Whatever your job is on any given play for basketball. That's kind of where I'm taking this question. Just doing whatever your job is on each individual play, and a lot of times, for me the last couple years, it's been guarding really good players. A lot of times, you gotta play physical, play a little dirty to try to slow guys down because this league is full of killers, full of guys that are really, really good offensive players.
To describe myself with toughness, I think it's just a lot of resilience. I have a naive mindset where I believe I'm always gonna get the job done... That mindset's kind of helped me get to where I am today."
Question: An area this team struggled with last year was defending the perimeter at the point of attack/point of the screen in pick-and-roll coverage. That's an area where you've excelled in your NBA career. What goes into being a good or elite point-of-attack defender, and how do you think that talent of yours can help the Bulls?
Caruso's answer will excite Bulls fans. While offense runs the NBA today, defense is still important and necessary. For the Bulls, their recent rosters have not had excellent defensive guards with the focus and grit Caruso has.
"I think care factor is a big part of it. Caring every possession, having the mindset of wanting to get a stop, having the pride that you don't want your guy to score, and just trying to win games. That's kind of where it starts. That's something I can provide day-in and day-out. Game-in, game-out, that's something you can control: your effort, your energy, and playing defense.
For me, that's always been the catalyst to my game. Whether it's been getting a run-through steal and getting a dunk on the other end, taking a charge, or getting a deflection. It provides energy to the team, it provides energy for the game, and, usually, that's positive."
Alex Caruso will be one of the first players off the bench for the Chicago Bulls. He's also likely to see the floor with Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, and DeMar DeRozan a fair amount when Donovan deploys three-guard lineups. Caruso's ability to lock opponents up defensively will be necessary for a team that features LaVine, Ball, and DeRozan all focusing more energy offensively.
Finally, I've linked Caruso's full press conference below. Enjoy, Bulls Nation.