BOSTON – The Michael Carter-Williams bone bruise on his left knee could have been worse.
As a matter of fact, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and most of the team thought it was.
The fact that the back-up guard is only expected to miss a month to six weeks was actually a relief, but it also means that players have to step up and fill a role that was suddenly becoming important.
Yes, Carter-Williams was only averaging 15 minutes and four points a game, but he solidified that second unit as a combo guard, especially on the defensive end. It wasn’t so much about scoring for the Carter-Williams role as much as it was about defense and working with either Dwyane Wade or Jimmy Butler, as well as the second group.
That’s why Carter-Williams was a plus-five in the plus/minus category against Indiana, and was the only member of the second unit that was on the plus side [plus-three] in the opening night win over Boston.
“He’s brought us an element that we’ve lacked with that second group,’’ Hoiberg said on Wednesday of Carter-Williams. “He’s picking up full-court. He does a great job getting in that paint and making the right play. So we’ll miss him. We’ll have to have all our guys ready.’’
The “guys’’ that will fill that role starts with rookie Denzel Valentine, but also include the likes of Paul Zipser and Jerian Grant, depending on matchups.
What’s nice for Hoiberg is he has versatility to work with. Both Wade and Butler have worked stagger minutes with the second group, and each has acted as a point guard on different times down the floor.
So it’s not so much Hoiberg searching for a back-up point guard as much as just finding the right mix to work with either Butler or Wade.
That’s where Isaiah Canaan comes in. When Carter-Williams went down, Canaan got most of the work, and scored 15 points, including hitting 3-for-4 from three. He was the perfect fit for the drive-and-kick games of Butler and Wade.
“You look at some of our preseason games with Isaiah being in there with Dwyane, it gives you a guy who can space the floor and knock down shots with a guy that’s going to make the right play,’’ Hoiberg said.
Even with that said, the 14th overall pick in the 2016 draft had better be ready.
“They just tell me to be ready and that’s my mindset is to stay ready,’’ Valentine said. “Just depending on the situation, who we’re playing, what type of lineup we have in. I can play pretty much any position, depending on who’s out there.’’
Heck of a week
The NBA schedule makers definitely love drama, and the Bulls are finding that out in Week 1.
Not only facing Boston and Indiana twice in the first 10 days, but a huge homecoming showdown with Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose on Friday when the New York Knicks come to town.
Butler loves the hype behind all these games, especially what’s coming Friday at the United Center.
“It’s good for this team,’’ Butler said. “We’re facing a lot of teams that have that chip on their shoulder and want that fight. Fans want to see that, and really the players want to see it.
“I like it. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Friday can’t be downplayed, but we’ll worry about that on Friday.’’