Donovan praises Hill, who gets two-way deal; Caruso set to return Wednesday

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn.

    Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/17/2022 4:42 PM

It didn't take Malcolm Hill long to make a strong impression on the Bulls.

They signed the 6-foot-6 guard to a two-way contract Monday, releasing point guard Devon Dotson.

 

Bulls coach Billy Donovan made a bold statement Saturday in Boston by sending Hill onto the floor during the final five minutes of a close game. The former Illini star was in his first game with the Bulls and the fourth NBA game of his life.

"I liked his competitiveness, I liked what he did defensively," Donovan said. "The biggest challenge for us was dealing with (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown coming down the stretch. I thought the minutes that he had on Brown, he did a nice job."

Donovan had more faith in Hill and Ayo Dosunmu to guard Tatum and Brown than forwards Alfonzo McKinnie and Troy Brown Jr. at the end of the contest.

"We just wanted to keep (Hill) out there because we knew with Brown and Tatum, just with their size with our wings, that was going to be a bit challenging," Donovan said. "I think the minutes he gave us, he did a really nice job and we continued to stay with him in those moments."

Hill, 26, is a Belleville native who played for the Illini from 2013-17. After going undrafted, he played for teams in the Philippines, Germany, Kazakhstan and Israel. He started this season with the Pelicans' G-League squad in Birmingham, Ala. and made his NBA debut with Atlanta on Dec. 25.

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Caruso set to return:

Alex Caruso is out of health and safety protocols and should make his return to game action Wednesday when the Bulls host Cleveland. The concern is Caruso has basically played in just two games since Dec. 4.

He missed a couple games with a hamstring strain, returned for the loss at Miami, then the Bulls had a week off when two games were postponed. Caruso played against the Lakers, suffered a left foot sprain early in the Houston game on Dec. 20 and hasn't played since, between the foot injury and protocols.

"We'll have to have a plan for him if he is able to physically play Wednesday and what his minutes will look like to give him a chance to get back to where he was," Donovan said.

Lonzo Ball flew back to Chicago on Monday morning to get his sore left knee checked out. Ball missed his second game and his return is unclear.

Javonte Green and Caruso participated in a practice with the Windy City Bulls on Monday. But Donovan said he was not optimistic Green would be ready to play Wednesday. He's been out since Jan. 1 with an adductor strain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The problem for him is when we've gotten him ramped up a little bit more, especially laterally, there's been some things that he feels," Donovan said of Green. "Not to say he's set himself back, but when you're still feeling that, (the medical staff) is going to pull back how hard they're pushing. They'll slowly try to work him back to where he can go full speed."

Illini double team:

By signing Malcolm Hill to a two-way deal, the Bulls have two former University of Illinois players on the roster for the first time in franchise history.

Hill is just the fifth ex-Illini to suit up for the Bulls, joining current teammate Ayo Dosunmu, Nick Weatherspoon, Kendall Gill and Frank Williams. So far, none of those players have spent more than one season with the Bulls, but that's very likely to change next year.

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