Wendell Carter

Bulls Notes: Offseason, Boylen, MPJ-Carter Draft, Delete Eight

New Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has plenty of interesting choices to make with regards to team personnel on both the court and on the bench during the 2020 offseason. Bobby Marks of ESPN Insider examines some of the key issues Karnisovas should address.

The future of embattled head coach Jim Boylen has been the hottest topic of speculation for Bulls fans since the hiring of Karnisovas earlier this year. Boylen’s disappointing 39-84 record has been partly affected by several player injuries, including those afflicting former lottery picks Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., but Marks addresses just how much blame for the team’s poor finishes during the last two seasons should be placed on those absences as opposed to Boylen’s coaching approach.

The possible fates of restricted free agent Kris Dunn and leading scorer Zach LaVine during this crucial Bulls offseason are also discussed.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Boylen’s status is also addressed in a fairly comprehensive recent Bulls mailbag from NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Johnson reiterates that Karnisovas apparently has the full green light from team owner Jerry Reinsdorf to replace Boylen, but that Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley have been asked by ownership to “take time to get to know” the coach before making a decision. Boylen is earning $1.6MM annually, making him one of the most affordable head coaches in the NBA.
  • Nuggets rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. has been enjoying a coming-out party within the NBA’s Orlando restart campus. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago takes a look at the player the Bulls passed over in favor of Wendell Carter Jr. with the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Porter is averaging 22 PPG and 8.6 RPG, while shooting 55.1% from the field (including 42.2% from long range and 93.1% from the charity stripe) in Orlando. Porter’s checkered injury history gave Chicago pause at the time, and Schaefer contends that Carter’s promising future as a passing big man on the cusp of averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounding means the jury on the selection is still out.
  • The Bulls rank among just eight teams bad enough to miss the NBA’s 22-squad Orlando restart. As we discussed previously, talks remain ongoing about potentially keeping the so-called “Delete Eight” clubs active. One concept touched upon during recent conference call involves bringing the Bulls and the other underperforming teams to Orlando after the first round of the NBA playoffs, when only eight of the original 22 teams would remain on the Disney World campus. However, it’s not clear whether it has gained any traction with the NBPA.

Central Notes: M. Williams, Carter, Drummond, Giannis

Marvin Williams looked at three Eastern Conference contenders when he started considering a buyout with the Hornets, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Williams thought about playing for the Bucks, Raptors or Celtics, and Milwaukee was the first team to express interest. The move has worked out well as he is playing 17 minutes per night as the primary backup at power forward.

“The easiest thing is actually the basketball aspect,” Williams said about changing teams in midseason for the first time in his 15-year career. “I’m in a new city meeting new people. All new teammates. Once I get out there on the court, it’s still all basketball.”

As the Hornets adopted a youth movement, Williams dropped out of the starting lineup and saw his playing time cut significantly. He will return to Charlotte today for the first time since the buyout and said he is comfortable with his legacy in the city.

“You hear people say you always want to leave something in better shape than when you got it,” Williams said. “I think (the Hornets were) in bad shape when I got there. I want people to remember I tried to do the right things when I was there.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Wendell Carter Jr. plans to talk to Bulls officials about a position change at his postseason exit interview, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago has been using Carter at center, but he played power forward in high school and college and believes he can be more effective in that role in the NBA.
  • Andre Drummond is still adjusting to his new home in Cleveland and hasn’t decided if he wants to make a long-term commitment to the city, notes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Acquired at the trade deadline, the Cavaliers center has a player option for next season and could decide to become a free agent this summer. “I thought coming here I would just figure it out right away, but it’s definitely a culture shock and definitely a change for me,” he said. “Just going to a whole new team and feeling like being drafted again kind of. For me, it’s starting over and trying to learn everything from the ground up again.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo has responded in his back-and-forth with Rockets star James Harden, relays Eric Woodyard of ESPN. After the Bucks star took a couple of verbal swipes at Harden during All-Star Weekend, Harden said in an ESPN interview Friday, “I wish I could be seven feet, run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all.” Antetokounmpo insists he brings much more to the court. “My game is not just power for sure,” he said. “I came in when I was 18, I was 180 pounds, so to power through big guys was kind of tough.”

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.”

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Sexton, Carter, Brown

J.B. Bickerstaff took over for John Beilein as Cavaliers coach after the All-Star break but he’s not a short-term replacement, he confirmed to Marc Spears of The Undefeated. Bickerstaff has received assurances from the front office he’ll receive a new contract.

“To my knowledge, at some point in time we will negotiate a long-term deal,” Bickerstaff said. “But this wasn’t an interim thing. This was a conversation that (Cavaliers GM) Koby (Altman) and I had. And he said, ‘You’re the head coach moving forward.’ So, the plan is I will be back next season with a long-term deal.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Second-year Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton admitted that Beilein’s departure served as a wakeup call for himself and his teammates, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer relays. Sexton asked himself some hard questions after the team made another coaching change. “Was I as coachable as I could have been? Could I have been more coachable? Could I have received information and criticism better? Let me step back and survey,” Sexton said. “’Was I as good of a player to coach when he was here?’ Had to just look myself in the mirror and ask myself those things.”
  • Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. is hopeful he can return to action as early as Saturday, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. He hasn’t played since January 6 due to an ankle injury. “It’s going to be a little bit weak but continuing to play, continuing to put more stress on it is going to make it stronger,” said Carter, who will be on a minutes restriction when he returns.
  • Pistons guard Bruce Brown has established himself as a defensive stopper and increased his rebounding totals since Andre Drummond was traded but there’s still one glaring area of improvement, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. Brown is shooting 44.3% overall and 33.7% on 3-point tries, which is an upgrade from his rookie year but is still a work in progress. “Bruce has improved in a lot of areas,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Shooting has been the last one to come around and I do know that will come around.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/26/20

Here are Wednesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

Wendell Carter Jr. Hopes To Return After All-Star Break

A January 6 game against Dallas was the last time Wendell Carter Jr. suited up for the Bulls. The former No. 7 overall pick, who has been recovering from a high ankle sprain since then, feels like he is close to making his return to the court.

“I’m definitely feeling a lot better, I’m continuing to do rehab and therapy on my ankle every day,” Carter said (via Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports). “Just trying to get it feeling right. And I want to be back next game, that’s what I’m shooting for right now. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen, but that’s what I’m shooting for.”

It’s worth noting that this is not the official timeline set by the team but rather WCJ’s feeling of the situation. The Bulls’ next contest is February 20 vs. the Hornets. Returning that night would put him in line with the team’s initial 4-to-6 week recovery timeline.

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.

Central Notes: Carter Jr., Giannis, McKinnie, Bulls

Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. believes he could return from his severe ankle injury ahead of schedule, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.

Carter injured his ankle on January 6 and was initially given a four-to-six week timetable after undergoing an MRI. The 20-year-old was posting season averages of 11.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 30 minutes before going down to injury.

“Definitely closer to the four[-week side],’’ Carter said on his potential return, as relayed by Cowley. “My progress has been really good lately, so definitely closer to the four than the six.’’

The Bulls have a 3-4 record since losing Carter, who emphasized that he’s been working on his upper-body strength and watching film during rehab. He’ll likely return just before All-Star Weekend, which is set to commence between on February 14.

“It’s still pretty frustrating, but at the same time, I think everything happens for a reason,’’ Carter said. “That’s something I strongly believe in, so it’s frustrating because I’m a competitor, but on the back end it’s like, ‘OK, this happened for a reason or it could have been worse.’ Just take it in and try to get it better every day.’’

There’s more out of the Central Division tonight:

  • Sam Amick of The Athletic examines how the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo have quieted speculation regarding his 2021 unrestricted free agency, where he’s expected to garner interest from multiple teams. Milwaukee has the league’s best record at 38-6, winning its last six games. Their success has been fueled by Antetokounmpo and his MVP-caliber season (30 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 5.5 APG on 55% FG).
  • Alfonzo McKinnie is fighting to prove he belongs with the Cavaliers on a 10-day contract, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. Cleveland is likely to sign McKinnie to a second 10-day deal after his current contract expires on Sunday, according to Fedor, with the 27-year-old originally signing on January 9. “I’m just excited for the opportunity,” McKinnie said. “Best league in the world so however you get in, you just have to go with that and try to stick. This is my first time ever signing a 10-day. It really ain’t no different mindset-wise. Just trying to put forth everything that you can do on the court to show the organization that you belong, that you want to be around. For me, every year that I’ve been in the league trying to solidify a spot that’s pretty much how I approach it. Just coming out and doing what I can do and leaving it all on the floor and then leaving it into the front office’s hands. Hopefully it’s good enough.”
  • The Bulls could look to ramp up trade discussions involving Thaddeus Young and Denzel Valentine as the February 6 deadline approaches, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Schaefer examined different trade scenarios with both players, evaluating Chicago’s potential options.

Eastern Notes: Kornet, Morris, Pasecniks, Wall

The Bulls are trying to get by in the middle with rookie Daniel Gafford and Luke Kornet until Wendell Carter Jr. returns, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times relays. Carter is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury.

The Bulls used their room exception to sign Kornet to a two-year, $4.5MM contract during the offseason but he’s only appeared in 20 games this season, averaging 3.2 PPG in 9.7 MPG. He had 15 points against Detroit on Saturday but went scoreless against Boston on Monday.

‘‘[Kornet] was just waiting for his time to come back and show what he can do, and that’s what he did [Saturday],’’ Gafford said of his Bulls teammate.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks are leaning toward retaining forward Marcus Morris, who will be a free agent again after the season, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Morris, who will miss his fifth straight game Tuesday against the Bucks with a neck injury, may not be dealt unless they get back a star-quality player in a large package, Berman continues. Several playoff teams are interested in Morris, Berman adds, but the Knicks would prefer to preserve their 2020 or 2021 cap space in any deal.
  • The Wizards used part of their mid-level exception to convert center Anzejs Pasecniks‘ contract from a two-way deal to a standard one, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Pasecniks was signed to a multi-year pact on Sunday. The Wizards will take a $482K cap hit this year. Pasecniks has a $250K guarantee on his $1.52MM salary for the 2020/21 season. The contract for next season becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on the roster through July 8, Katz continues. His $1.78MM salary for 2021/22 is non-guaranteed, Katz adds.
  • Wizards GM Tommy Shephard reiterated that point guard John Wall will not return this season unless he’s completely healthy, Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington writes. Wall has been participated in 3-on-3 drills with members of the player development staff. “We’re not going to skip steps, we’re not going to get excited about 3-on-3,” Sheppard said. “Down the road, I think we’ll start to add more players to the court and make it feel more like home, but we’re not in a rush to see John come back unless he’s 100 percent healthy.”

Wendell Carter Jr. Expected To Miss 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury

9:19pm: The Bulls have provided an update on Carter, announcing that he is expected to be on the shelf for four-to-six weeks due to a severe right ankle sprain. If he misses a full six weeks, Carter won’t be back in Chicago’s lineup until after the All-Star break.

4:17pm: The Bulls are expected to be without second-year big man Wendell Carter Jr. for multiple weeks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that an MRI revealed a high right ankle sprain for Carter.

The team has yet to issue an official update of its own, and Charania notes that Carter will be evaluated daily. However, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago also hears that it’s a “serious” sprain for Carter and that the injury will be a week-to-week issue rather than a day-to-day one.

Although Carter is only 20 years old, he has been a stabilizing presence in Chicago’s frontcourt, nearly averaging a double-double (11.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG) and anchoring a surprisingly strong defense.

With Carter starting the club’s first 37 games and averaging 30.0 minutes per contest, the Bulls have the eighth-best defense rating in the NBA. The team clearly missed him on Wednesday, surrendering 123 points and recording a 120.6 defensive rating vs. the Pelicans.

With Carter on the shelf, it appears the Bulls will roll with Thaddeus Young as a frontcourt starter alongside Lauri Markkanen. Rookie Daniel Gafford should also see an increase in playing time, with little-used center Luke Kornet perhaps getting a longer look as well.