Wendell Carter

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.

Central Notes: Doumbouya, WCJ, Turner, Love

Rookie Sekou Doumbouya is working to prove he can be a reliable player for the Pistons and the team is giving him that opportunity.

“What do they say in the Baptist church when you get baptized? ‘Hallelujah.’” Casey said (via Rod Beard of The Detroit News). “OK, so go ahead, put him in the water. He’s in the water and he’s getting baptized with three of the top players in our league, Draymond [Green] and Kawhi [Leonard], and [LeBron] James, so he’s seeing the best he’s going to see right now.”

The No. 15 overall pick has taken on the responsibility of guarding the opposition’s best player on many occasions this season. With Blake Griffin sidelined for the foreseeable future, Doumbouya will have more opportunities to grow.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Wendell Carter Jr. is dealing with an ankle injury and while the big man believes it’s just a sprain, he’ll undergo an MRI on Thursday, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports relays on Twitter. Carter was originally scheduled to have the MRI on Tuesday but it’ll wait until the Bulls return home from their road trip.
  • J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star details how Pacers big man Myles Turner has turned his season around. Turning off social media has been a major plus for Turner. “For someone in my position, it can be toxic at times. You start hearing stuff, hearing your name pop up in certain places. You can’t pay it any mind. You got to be comfortable in your own skin,” he said.
  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link) doesn’t believe Kevin Love‘s relationship with GM Koby Altman is all that great. The two recently had a heated exchange and Love has acknowledged that his behavior was childlike, though he insists he and Altman are on good terms and says their supposed altercation was overblown.

Bulls Notes: Doyle, Carter, Gafford, Rotation

G League standout Milton Doyle dreams of securing a long-term NBA role, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com.

Doyle, an alum of  Chicago’s Marshall High School and Loyola University, is averaging 18.9 PPG, 6.5 APG and 4.4 RPG for the Windy City Bulls, the G League affiliate of the Bulls. Doyle is shooting 86% from the charity stripe and 34% from three-point land.

The 6’4″ combo guard cameoed for the Nets in 2017/18, appearing in 10 games and averaging 12.5 MPG, 3.4 PPG, and 1.8 APG. Last year, he played for UCAM Murcia of the Liga ACB in Spain.

He has returned to Chicago for a crack at the big time once again with the Bulls’ G League squad.

“It’s about finding a niche that will get a team to say they want me,” Doyle told Smith of his time with the Windy City Bulls.“I feel like I have the ability to come off the bench for a team and make plays whether it’s scoring or playing defense, getting others involved.”

There’s more out of Chicago:

  • Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. has impressed this season, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson. Most recently, Carter had an 18-point, 13-rebound, four-assist night against Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s two-time Defensive Player of the Year, on Friday. “Games like that can turn him into an All-Star type big,” teammate Thaddeus Young observed. Carter has been a key fulcrum for the Bulls eking out a top five NBA defense.
  • Bulls stretch-four Luke Kornet was signed to a two-year, $4.5MM contract this summer to create some spacing off the bench. Athletic rookie power forward Daniel Gafford, the No. 38 pick in 2019, has thus far severely outperformed him. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times examines the two players’ 2019/20 seasons thus far.
  • Coach Jim Boylen shrank the injury-hampered Bulls’ rotation to eight players in a 111-104 loss to the Celtics yesterday. KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago wonders if this trend will continue, despite it pushing all the starters’ minutes over 35, with the exception of power forward Lauri Markkanen.

Central Notes: Carter, Pacers, Wood, Satoransky

Second-year Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. has been shooting more readily from long range recently, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Carter’s improved three-point shooting could help expand Chicago’s offense if the uptick in attempts and makes continues.

A 41.3% shooter during his single year at Duke, Carter is just a career 22.7% three-point shooter in the NBA on 0.7 attempts. Across his last five Bulls contests, however, he has boosted his three-point attempts to 1.2 a night. Carter made two triples last night in a 116-81 blowout over the Hawks.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • A pair of road losses on a Friday-and-Saturday back-to-back, to the elite Heat and the bottom-dwelling Pelicans, have revealed that the Pacers appear able to play up or down to the level of their competition, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. Michael suggests that this trend could become dangerous should it continue.
  • Pistons power forward Christian Wood, an unrestricted free agent this summer, has earned his roster spot with the Pistons, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Detroit will almost certainly guarantee Wood’s contract come January 10. Langlois observes that Wood hopes to become part of the Pistons’ future. Head coach Dwane Casey applauds Wood’s development thus far this season. “That’s what this year is about – training and growth, longer periods of sustained focus,” Casey said. “He’s showing that on both ends of the floor, not getting caught up as much in the little things that take him out of plays offensively and defensively.” 
  • Bulls point guard Tomas Satoransky, one of the team’s premium 2019 summer signings, has been finding his sweet spot in Chicago, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I think I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season,” Satoransky said. “I feel great. I’m more consistent [lately].” The 28 year-old inked a three-year, $30MM contract with the Bulls, though the third year is not fully guaranteed.

Bulls Notes: WCJ, LaVine, Porter Jr.

The Bulls are out to a rough start at 6-14 and Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago argues that Wendell Carter Jr. has been the only player to make the team better on both ends of the court. Chicago is better on both offense and defense in terms of net rating with WCJ on the floor and the team should utilize him more, Schaefer contends.

Here’s more from Chicago:

  • The Zach LaVineLauri Markkanen pairing simply hasn’t meshed this season, Schaefer writes in the same piece. Both players have had peaks and valleys in their season with neither catching fire together and the Bulls have been outscored by 7.5 points per possession when the duo shares the floor.
  • Sam Smith of NBA.com wonders if the Bulls can still make the playoffs. The scribe breaks down the field in the East and believes that Chicago can still make a run at the eighth seed in the conference.
  • Otto Porter Jr. (foot injury) is approaching the two-week mark of his originally estimated four-week absence. The wing said he feels better but there is still no exact timetable for this return, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune relays (Twitter link).

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, LaVine, Carter, Kornet

Of all the issues holding down the Bulls, none is more baffling than the slow start by Lauri Markkanen, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. A tense two-game stretch ended on a positive note Saturday as Zach LaVine resolved trust issues with coach Jim Boylen and put up 49 points in a dramatic win at Charlotte. However, Cowley notes that Markkanen was on the bench as the Bulls finished off their comeback.

“Well, I didn’t think Lauri played poorly,’’ Boylen said afterward. “He did not shoot the ball how we know he can shoot it. I did not think he played poorly. Just like Zach, just like Coby [White], just like [Kris Dunn], just like [Ryan Arcidiacono], just like everybody, Wendell [Carter], I’m going to keep coaching and my staff is going to keep coaching. Just try to keep leading these guys in the right direction. We’re going to keep looking at it.’’

Markkanen’s scoring average is down about five points from last season and his shooting percentage has dropped from 43.0% to 35.4%. Cowley cites increasing concern in the organization that he and LaVine might not be effective together. Rumors of a possible Markkanen trade have emerged recently, although a source in the organization strongly denied it.

There’s more Bulls news to pass along:

  • Chicago is giving fewer minutes to its best players than anyone else in the league, which may contribute to any chemistry issues between LaVine and Markkanen, notes Sam Smith of Bulls.com. The Bulls have 10 players averaging at least 20 minutes per game, while most teams have six or seven. Both LaVine and Markkanen have seen their court time fall about 10% from last season.
  • Coaches are working with Carter to try to get his foul trouble under control, relays K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The second-year center is averaging 12.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, but he’s also committing 4.2 fouls, which limits his time on the court. “I don’t know if it’s that I’m being too aggressive,” Carter said. “I talk to the refs. Every time I pick up my early fouls, I always try to ask them what exactly am I doing wrong. It seems my body is out of position or my hands are down. It’s just a concentration thing with me. I just have to go into the game knowing that I can’t be picking up early fouls.”
  • Backup center Luke Kornet has been cleared for basketball work a week after having nasal surgery, Johnson tweets.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Markkanen, Carter, Anthony

A lethargic offense has doomed the Bulls in a 4-9 start, but Zach LaVine doesn’t believe they need to change their approach, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The Bulls were 27th in offensive efficiency heading into Saturday, and although they are placing a new emphasis on 3-pointers, ranking eighth in the league in attempts at 35.5 per game, they are shooting just 32.5% from beyond the arc, which ranks 24th.

“We get stagnant a lot out there,’’ LaVine said after Saturday’s loss to the Nets. “We’ll run one action and then everybody is staring at the person with the ball. We gotta get more fluid. I don’t feel a lot of people are in rhythm. When that happens, obviously everybody starts trying to do it themselves. It’s tough. I blame myself. I try to do that as well. I’m in the gym late. I’m putting up shots. I’m making sure I’m prepared so I can do everything I can to help. We gotta do a better job as a team.’’

Coach Jim Boylen told reporters he plans to “stay the course” with the current approach and doesn’t expect any major changes in personnel or strategy.

There’s more Bulls news to pass along:

  • LaVine is vowing to help Lauri Markkanen rediscover his scoring touch, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. After averaging 18.7 points per game last season, Markkanen’s average has fallen to 14.5 PPG while shooting 38% from the field. “He just doesn’t seem in rhythm right now man. It’s a new offense. And I think it has a part to do with it,” LaVine said. “We just gotta help him find it. We’ve all gone through some struggles. I feel like everybody has been off rhythm in the beginning part of the year. I think everybody is shooting a lower field goal percentage than their (career) average. His spirits are still high. I know he’s worried about it but he’s not pressing yet. And I think that’s good to see. He hasn’t done anything out of character. He hasn’t lashed out or blamed anybody. He just wants to win. And that’s the type of player he is.”
  • Foul trouble continues to be an issue for second-year center Wendell Carter Jr., Cowley observes in a separate story. Coaches like Carter’s aggressiveness on defense, but he admits he needs to channel it to stay on the floor.
  • After taking Coby White in the first round this year, the Bulls could focus on another Tar Heel if they continue to flounder, Cowley suggests in another piece. Cole Anthony, who has drawn comparisons to Derrick Rose, comes highly recommended by White. “He’s everything that was advertised,’’ White said. “Good, athletic, strong, can knock it down, gets it done defensively, rebounds the ball.’’

Bulls Exercise Options On Markkanen, Carter Jr., Hutchison

The Bulls have exercised their fourth-year option on forward Lauri Markkanen and third-year options on center Wendell Carter Jr. and forward Chandler Hutchison, according to a team press release. That guarantees the trio’s contracts for the 2020/21 season.

Markkanen will make $6.73MM next season after collecting $5.3MM this season.

Injuries limited Markkanen to 52 games last season. He averaged 18.7 PPG and 9.0 RPG while shooting .430 from the field and .361 from 3-point range.

Carter Jr. will take home $5.45MM next season after receiving approximately $5.2MM this season.

Carter Jr. was selected No. 7 overall in 2018 draft. He, too, battled injuries last season and was limited to 44 games but showed the ability to be a defensive anchor. He averaged 10,3 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.3 BPG in 25.2 MPG as a rookie.

Hutchison will receive $2.44MM next season after making $2.33MM in 2019/20.

Hutchison, selected with the No. 22 pick in 2018, averaged 5.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 44 games during his rookie campaign. He’s expected to play a reserve role this season.