Alex Caruso’s wrist is broken. He is going to miss the next 6-8 weeks of action for the Bulls. Grayson Allen, the person who knocked Caruso out of the air and caused his injury, has been suspended by the NBA for one game. If this seems a bit imbalanced to you, it’s because you have common sense.
For those that did not see the play from Friday night during the Milwaukee Bucks’ 94-90 victory over the Bulls, it is unequivocally not a basketball play. Caruso is in the air going for a layup off of a fastbreak when Allen clotheslines him, Bill Laimbeer style, out of midair.
It would be reasonable for the Bulls to be furious about this suspension. A member of their team might miss two months of action while the person who injured him misses a night? This could absolutely result in some vigilante justice when the two teams meet again in March. The NBA didn’t send a clear enough message with a one-game suspension that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated, so now the Bulls have to send a message to the rest of the league that, regardless of what the league does, that cheap shots will not be tolerated.
The initial contact can be forgiven. It can be plausibly argued that Allen went up to make a play on the ball and just happened to run into Caruso’s arm. He jumped into Caruso a bit recklessly for a professional athlete, but there has to be room for people to make aggressive plays. However, Allen then decides to take his second arm and swing it. To do what, exactly? In a Discord message he explained that after he attempted to block the shot, and that while he was “spinning” he tried to grab the ball with his other hand and accidentally hit Caruso again.
Spinning?! You know who was spinning, Caruso who was already horizontal after Allen flew into him like one of those Angry Birds in the Geico commercial. Then Allen attempts to explain away the blow he delivered with his other arm with some excuse about trying to retrieve the ball. That’s a nonsense explanation, because he never touched the ball. The combination of his body arm making contact with Caruso’s arm and the referee’s whistle should be a dead giveaway that he completely missed the ball.
Also, who winds up their arm to try and recover a basketball? When trying to grab a rebound, or recover a loose ball, the object is for players to get their hands to the basketball as fast as possible. That doesn’t happen if you reach your arm back like a professional wrestler going for a knife-edged chop. And again, Allen touched no ball. He instead, got all of the back of Caruso’s head, causing him to hit the ground harder.
As bad as Allen’s reputation is — this a person who got ejected from a Summer League game as a rookie — it should have no bearing on his punishment. It’s not necessary. The act speaks for itself. Allen made a reckless, at best, malicious at worst, play on a player in midair that resulted in a serious injury. There is no place for that in the NBA. Sure that one game, and the pay that Allen will not receive for missing that game, will hurt but not as much as Caruso’s wrist or the Bulls’ rotation.
The NBA has been on a mission for decades to rid excessive physical contact from its game. These days a player can receive a flagrant foul in today’s game for leaving a foot too far out when an opposing player goes up for a jump shot.
The fouls of the 1980s and 1990s had to be punished more harshly if the NBA wanted the brawls from those decades to stop happening. Now in 2022, when presented with a foul that would’ve gotten Allen punched in the face immediately in 1994, the NBA didn’t go far enough with his punishment. Certainly not enough for the Bulls, who might be looking to dish out some United Center-style justice come March.