Michael Carter-Williams’ first assist is ducking ‘Number-gate’

What Michael Carter-Williams will be on the court for the Bulls this season is still an unknown.

What he is off the court, however, well, not even a question.

After trading for the former NBA Rookie of the Year on Saturday, Carter-Williams made news on Monday when he decided to wear the No. 1 on his jersey.

It was his college number, as well as the number he wore in Philadelphia that first season.

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It just so happened to be the number that Derrick Rose wore before being traded to the New York Knicks, and in a city still filled with Rose apologists it was also blasphemy.

The social media attacks came quickly. Jersey-number shaming at its best.

“I wasn’t personally looking at it,’’ Carter-Williams said of the outcry on social media. “My family and my brothers and sisters were like, ‘Man, everyone’s going crazy on Twitter.’ I was like, ‘Ah, man, that’s not how I want to start.’ It was nothing personal. To me, it’s not even a big deal.’’

So by late Monday night, the point guard made the decision to go ahead and switch to No. 7.

Welcome to Chicago.

“Honestly, I chose 1 because I wore it in college and my rookie year,’’ Carter-Williams said on Wednesday. “My mind wasn’t even thinking about DRose and everything like that. I just want the city and the team and the organization all to be focused on one thing. I think the fans are a big part of this organization and I didn’t want to have any distraction. I want everything to be positive.

“A number to me is not that important. If I play well or we play well or we play bad, I want them to support us instead of focusing on why is Michael wearing No. 1? I don’t mind wearing another number and everyone being on the same page.

“People are entitled to their own opinions. DRose did a lot for this city. He was born here. He was the youngest MVP ever. He really did a lot of great things for Chicago, especially when they had some tough years. People love him. I respect it. Like I said, it’s not a big deal to me. A number to me is just a number.’’

Even more impressive, while Carter-Williams said both he and the organization discussed the problem, he made the final call.

“That’s what I wanted to do,’’ Carter-Williams said.

Now what coach Fred Hoiberg wants Carter-Williams to do is get acclimated to the Bulls system as quickly as possible.

There was some extra work for the newest member of the backcourt on Wednesday, and the plan was to give him some minutes in the final preseason game Thursday night so he can work with the second unit and run some of the basic sets.

“He’s got great vision,’’ Hoiberg said of Carter-Williams. “Obviously he’s got very good positional size. He’s a guy that can get into the paint and make plays. He’s going to pick up full court. He’s a very willing defender in picking up 94 feet.

“The good thing is it is very early in our season and we will be able to get him some practices. Obviously it’s going to take time to get him to know the system and what we’re trying to do. He seems to be a guy that can pick things up very quickly. In talking to people that know him he’s a worker and a smart kid, a high-IQ player.’’

On full display already in making sure “Number-gate’’ never got out of hand.


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