“If I finish a game with no fouls, I probably didn’t play hard enough,” Caruso said in an interview following this week’s morning shootaround in Boston. “That’s how I look at it.”
Caruso also leads the Bulls — and ranks fourth in the NBA — with 2.5 steals and is tied for third with LaMelo Ball in the NBA with 36 deflections. Like a snug-fitting headband, he has slipped over screens, sticking to his man, improving the Bulls’ point-of-attack defense in myriad ways.
“That’s just kind of what I do,” Caruso said. “When they signed me, they didn’t want me to come in and do anything other than what I’m good at. That’s why they brought me here.
“I’ve always tried to compete on the ball against some of the best players in the world. Night in and night out, you’re going to be facing somebody who’s really freaking good at basketball. I like playing defense. I like stopping people. I like making guys frustrated.”
Speaking of frustration, watching Caruso after he is whistled for a foul is an entertaining exercise in witnessing incredulity. His eyes emote. His mouth moves. Arm gestures sometimes occur.
His ability to engage with officials in animated fashion without drawing a technical foul is a balancing act he walks adroitly.
“I probably have three career techs,” Caruso said. “When I was younger, I probably expressed things the wrong way.”
And there’s a method to Caruso’s madness.
“I try my best to communicate with the refs because I like to know what I did wrong or what I felt happened on the play. I like to get their point of view because I think it helps me play my defense better,” he said. “It also allows me to help tell my teammates what to do. Stuff like that is just trying to get a little bit of an edge.”
The Bulls own a top-five defensive rating at this point, allowing 101.8 points per 100 possessions. Caruso isn’t the only reason for that, but he’s a big one.