Whether it was on purpose or, as Derrick Jones Jr. insists, by accident, the Bulls have finally (sort of) gotten their payback on Grayson Allen. In a late January matchup between the Bucks and the Bulls, Allen had a flagrant 2 foul that put Bulls point guard Alex Caruso out of commission for months with a broken wrist.
Bulls fans and players were furious, and the backlash on Allen was harsh. He received a one-game suspension, which Milwaukee publicly disagreed with, and Bulls coach Billy Donovan had some strong words for Allen at the post-game press conference.
Last night, in a close game that Chicago ended up dropping, 118-112, Jones Jr. hit Allen in the head with his elbow and hip-checked the former Duke star while defending a layup attempt. Allen fell to the ground, but got up quickly, not seriously injured. Jones Jr. was handed a flagrant 1, and while many Bulls fans delighted in the payback foul, the Bulls forward insisted that the elbow hit had been accidental.
“I’m not a dirty player,” Jones Jr. said after the game, per ESPN. “Honestly, I talked to every ref that was there today. I didn’t think that was a flagrant. They said I hit him in his head. I didn’t even feel it. I just felt him bump my hip and fall. That’s all I felt.”
Since signing with the Bucks in 2021, Allen has quickly emerged as a villain for the Bulls fanbase, who loudly booed him every time he came out on the court or touched the ball at the United Center last night in a game that left the Bucks and Bulls tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Allen is used to the boos, though, and said as much, having drawn a fair few from rival crowds during his Duke years.
There were questions of whether the Bulls, losers of four straight, would try to get some sort of revenge on Allen for severely injuring their starting guard, and Tristan Thompson fed the rumor mill on that question, despite only having been with Chicago for two weeks.
“Take one of my dogs out like that, we’re gonna have issues,” Thompson said Thursday. “You gotta set the tone. What he did affected one of our guys, and I don’t think anyone should forget about that.”
Both Donovan and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer seemed to want to just move past the incident, and Jones Jr. (who also got a highlight-reel dunk on reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo) told reporters that he would never have flagrantly fouled someone on purpose, perhaps throwing a jab at Allen himself, who has been notorious for dirty play since his college years.
“I want to get a stop as much as they want to get a stop on the other end,” Jones Jr. said. “What happened in Milwaukee, we didn’t like it. It’s obvious we didn’t like it. Nobody liked that. But, I mean, I’m not going to go out there and just try to take a man out.”