Freshly arrived Monday from the Milwaukee Bucks, new Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams initially decided to wear No. 1, which Derrick Rose famously wore.
Upon further review, though, Carter-Williams, who was acquired for Tony Snell, changed his mind and opted for the less controversial No. 7. The move left the Bulls and reporters scrambling. Jimmy Butler found it all amusing.
“Let him have whatever number he wants,” Butler said after the Bulls lost 108-104 in overtime to the visiting Charlotte Hornets. “If he wants 21 [Butler’s number], he can have 21. I just want him to be happy.”
Before the switch, Carter-Williams had said his first choice “has nothing to do with D-Rose.”
“He was a great player,” he said. “He did a lot for this city. To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about that. There was so much going on. I wasn’t even thinking about Derrick being No. 1.”
Carter-Williams wore No. 1 at Syracuse and with the Philadelphia 76ers when he was 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year.
“It’s just a number I like,” he said. “I was No. 1 in college. I was No. 1 in Philly. When I went to Milwaukee, I was No. 5. It’s a new place. I’m trying to get my chip back on my shoulder.”
Whatever his jersey number, no one is thinking Carter-Williams will be Rose-like. He’s expected to back up, and learn from, Rajon Rondo at the point. Given that the underachieving Snell, selected 20th overall in 2013, wasn’t going to be in the rotation, this looks like a shrewd, no-risk pickup.
Carter-Williams wasn’t in uniform Monday night. He’ll undergo a physical Tuesday and join practice with an eye toward playing in the final preseason game Thursday night against the Atlanta Hawks in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Bulls believe Carter-Williams, who wasn’t a good fit in Milwaukee, can be productive.
“He’s a two-way player who adds versatility and depth to our backcourt rotation,” said general manager Gar Forman, who likes his ability to be a strong defender as well as playmaker.
Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds for the 76ers in 2014, when he was named the NBA’s top rookie.
“It gives us another talented player,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “His rookie season, he put up unbelievable numbers. He’s a very versatile player. He’ll fit in with how we want to play. He’s very good in pick-and-roll. You can use him in mismatch situations — you can put him in the post. He does a lot of things that fit. And he’s a very willing defender. So, yeah, we’re excited about his versatility.’’
Carter-Williams, drafted 11th overall in 2013, was dealt to the Bucks at the February 2015 trading deadline. How does a former top rookie wind up being traded twice in three years?
“I don’t really know,” Carter-Williams said. “Some places work for some people, and some places don’t. I was able to have success my rookie year, and I got moved. That’s just the business of the game. You can’t focus on those things. You have to make the best of your situation.”
Hoiberg believes a change of scenery can do wonders.
“The way I look at Milwaukee’s situation, they’ve been committed to putting the ball in Giannis [Antetokounmpo’s] hands, and rightfully so,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a mismatch nightmare with the ball in his hands. This gives [Carter-Williams] a chance to come into a fresh situation.”
NOTES: Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez started Monday night, but coach Fred Hoiberg said that won’t necessarily be the starting five on opening night.
υ Denzel Valentine (ankle) didn’t play but could make his debut Thursday.
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