Bulls Notes: Carter, Valentine, Boyle, LaVine

Wendell Carter Jr. was back on the court today for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain on January 6, but he knows there’s a lot of work ahead to get back to normal. Playing under a minutes restriction, Carter posted six points and nine rebounds in a loss to the Knicks, then talked to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the adjustment of getting back into game shape.

“I got winded pretty quickly,’’ he said. “I tried to train and get prepared, but there’s nothing like playing out in a game. (The ankle) felt OK. Certain movements make you feel a little funny, but that comes with a sprained ankle. They say you just gotta work through it.’’

Carter’s return was a welcome sight for the Bulls, who probably lost center Luke Kornet for the rest of the season earlier this week. Coach Jim Boylen plans to ease Carter back into the lineup with about 20 minutes per game.

“I thought he had some moments where he looked like Wendell, and I thought he had some moments where he looked like he was in preseason still,’’ Boylen said. “That’s part of it. That’s why he’s on a minutes restriction. We’ll take it for the first night, and we’ll move forward.’’

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Also returning today was Denzel Valentine, who hasn’t played since Feb. 2 because of a hamstring injury, Cowley writes in a separate story. A lottery pick in 2016, Valentine has had to fight for playing time this year and knows his time with the Bulls may be nearing an end. “It’s huge,’’ he said of his approach for the rest of the season. “Just to prove to myself and everybody else that I belong for good.’’
  • Despite an alarming rate of injuries, Boylen is quick to defend the team’s training practices and medical staff, relays Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Kris Dunn appears to be out for the season along with Kornet, while no dates have been set for the return of Lauri Markkanen, Chandler Hutchison or Otto Porter. “We’ve had trauma. Trauma’s different,” Boylen said. “A broken finger, a broken foot, two knees. You know, things that happen from contact, collision. Those are things I think are very difficult to control.”
  • After the Bulls dropped to 20 games under .500 with today’s loss, Zach LaVine spoke with K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago about the challenges of staying focused for the season’s final 22 games. “You have other stuff creep into your mind. You’re looking at the finish line instead of looking at the next day. You have to fight that,” LaVine said. “… I had basketball taken away from me with my ACL injury for a while, and it gave me a new perspective on it. Since that, I try to play in any game that I can.”
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