MILWAUKEE --- Billy Donovan isn’t one to create headlines. He respects the game of basketball and rarely singles out players for much of anything.
But Grayson Allen’s flagrant-2 foul on Alex Caruso that sent Caruso to a scary fall and Allen to the Bucks’ locker room with an ejection pushed Donovan out of character after the Bulls’ Friday night loss.
In forceful but measured tones, Donovan not only stuck up for his player but emphatically said the NBA needs to take a look at Allen’s play, which the Chicago Bulls coach said dates to Allen’s college days at Duke.
“It was really bad. It was really, really bad,” Donovan said. “I’ll just say this: We lost Patrick (Williams) on a flagrant foul to a pretty significant injury. And I said this after the game: I think Mitchell Robinson was trying to make a legitimate play on the basketball. It happened to be a flagrant. There are times there’s flagrant fouls.
“For Alex to be in the air like that and for him to take him down like that, it could’ve ended his career. And (Allen) has a history of this. That, to me, was really dangerous. And I really hope the league takes a hard at something like that because he could’ve really seriously hurt him.
“He’s dealing with his wrist right now. I don’t know to what extent his wrist is. Just being there, it’s really, really dangerous to go after somebody like that. And I personally thought it was just not good. For it to even be extended to a flagrant-two and be thrown out of the game, clearly the officials must’ve felt there was some intent there the way (Allen) yanked him and snapped him to the floor and (Caruso’s) head bounced off the floor. So a really, really dangerous play.”
It came at the 5 minute, 45 second mark of the third quarter. Following a Pat Connaughton miss, a loose-ball scramble ended up with Ayo Dosunmu pushing the ball in transition and hitting a cutting Caruso. As Caruso ascended, Allen attempted to block the shot and swung through Caruso, sending him crashing to the court hard.
Caruso landed on his wrist and side and appeared to bounce his head off the hardwood. But later, the guard said it was merely his wrist and side that he was initially worried about. X-rays were negative.
“The wrist is a little banged up,” Caruso said. “We’ll see how that goes in the next couple of days.”
Asked to describe the play, Caruso didn’t mince words either.
“I went up. I was going to try to two-hand flush, a little dunk in transition,” he said. “I didn’t really know what happened during the play. But afterward, looking at it, I mean, dude just grabbed me out of the air. It’s kind of (expletive). I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”
Caruso said he thought he might’ve broken his arm because of the force with which he landed on it. He ended up taping his right wrist and, after missing both ensuing free throws, playing 23:34 overall.
“It kind of limited me shooting in the second stint when I went back in. I tried to step into them confidently. But the shooting wrist, sometimes it’s hard to play through those and shoot through those,” Caruso said. “But I tried to do my best to go out there and fight with the guys and compete and try to win.”
Caruso shot 3-for-11 overall and 1-for-6 from 3-point range on a night both teams struggled from the floor. He missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 2:43 left and the Bulls down five.
“To do that to a player is just really wrong. You could’ve really jeopardized his career in a lot of ways. I don’t know what his response will be to it. Maybe he didn’t mean to do it. I don’t know. I just know the play looked really, really bad on a guy that has a history of doing that all the way back into college,” Donovan said. “I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that. Because God forbid this guy was in a stretcher going out of the building right now. That would not be good.
“Listen, I know this is a physical game and there are plays at the basket and there’s a lot of contact. There’s a right way you can go up and have physicality with that. But not that way in my opinion.”
Privately, the Bulls also were upset that Allen didn’t check on Caruso, which they viewed as not showing remorse. Asked if Allen did, Caruso was succinct.
“No,” he said.