Alex Caruso was a full participant in a rigorous Chicago Bulls practice Tuesday afternoon, the team's first as it prepares for its first-round playoff matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
That's news because Caruso missed the Bulls' final three regular-season games managing a sore back. And even before officially logging absences, the defensive-minded guard's minutes declined as he endured spasms in the area.
But Billy Donovan said the week of rest has benefitted Caruso, who last played on April 5.
"He was cleared for everything today. I think the rest did give him a significant amount of health," the Bulls' coach said of Caruso after Tuesday's practice. "This is the best he's felt, according to him, and the time off really helped him."
The Bulls will continue to monitor Caruso throughout the week — Game 1 is on Sunday in Milwaukee — but that's a positive development, especially considering Donovan likened the feel of the Bulls' Tuesday practice to a training camp environment. The session, which lasted longer than two hours, featured plenty of 5-on-5 scrimmaging, contact work and scripting offensive and defensive sets.
Caruso played 13 games, including nine starts, between his return from wrist surgery and the back-induced absence, but his play noticeably declined as the ailment worsened. He shot just 32.4 percent, and 12-for-39 from 3-point range, in those 13 games. In the final two, he missed all eight of his field-goal attempts.
But then there Caruso was, getting up 3-point shots from the corners as others trickled to the weight room or exit doors after Tuesday's practice. Him operating at full-tilt is necessary if the Bulls want any chance at a massive upset, and to hear Donovan tell it, he's well on his way.