Alex Caruso faces the Lakers for the first time with the Bulls

Bulls

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 14: Alex Caruso #6 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles the ball during a game at the STAPLES Center on November 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2021 NBAE (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – It’s a collection of homecomings for new members of the Bulls as they made their way to Los Angeles this week.

Forward DeMar DeRozan is making yet another stop in his hometown, having grown in Compton and played college basketball at USC. It’s a similar situation for Lonzo Ball, who was born in Anaheim and would play high school in Chino Hills before playing for the Lakers his first two seasons.

Alex Caruso wasn’t born or grew up in Los Angeles, but his professional career was born as a member of the Lakers over the previous four seasons. He built his reputation through tough defense off the bench and would help the team to an NBA Championship in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

This will be his first game back in Los Angeles to face his old team since he signed with the Bulls in free agency. It’s an unusual situation for Caruso, who has never done this before in professional basketball, and it was on his mind even before Monday night’s contest.

“I’ve thought about it a little bit. I know there’s going to be some emotions on my part, just as a far as it was a special place for me for four years,” said Caruso. “Anytime you win a championship with a team, it’s really special coming back, but doing it in LA with the Lakers, historically one of the best franchises in the league. It’s really special and the bond I have with the fans, teammates, coaching staff, player development guys, front office, it’s still there and still resonates.

“We still have great bonds and relationships with them so it will be great to see them but, obviously, when the ball goes up, I’ll be pretty focused on the game.”

Just as he did in Los Angeles, Caruso has established himself as a critical bench player in what’s been a strong start to the season for the Bulls. While just 13 games in, he’s currently averaging what would be career highs in steals (2.5), assists (3.8), and rebounds (3.1).

Caruso made his first start of the season against the Clippers in a win on Sunday night leading the team with nine rebounds and three steals in 39 minutes where he match-up against Los Angeles All-Star Paul George at times.

He has a quick turnaround to face his old team as the Bulls enter their third of five games on this Western Conference road trip. It’s another shot for the team to continue to show why they belong in the conversation among the NBA’s best, but Caruso is being a bit more global with his thoughts as he faces his former team on a quick turnaround.

“I don’t know about statements, but as far as us playing basketball the way we want to play and showing up and like I said, being present and just trying to win every moment, that would be great for us. Still coming off a really..not a really poor performance but getting beat like we did at Golden State coming back and proving we’re a better team than that, we’re resilient. I think tomorrow might be even another test for us on a back-to-back against a good LA team after having a little success against the Clippers, we’re gonna see how we show up and how we compete.

“I think that, if anything, will be more of a statement than a win-loss.”

Just as this game might mean just a little more than the others for Caruso early in his first year with the Bulls.

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