Bulls remain committed to rookie Wendell Carter Jr., growing pains and all

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The education of Bulls rookie big man Wendell Carter Jr. hasn’t come without some growing pains.

Considering Carter — the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft in June — is only 19 years old, that was expected.

Now it’s about making sure Carter doesn’t feel overwhelmed after only two regular-season games.

‘‘I’ll be fine,’’ Carter said with a smirk. ‘‘I didn’t think it would be any different. This is what you sign up for.’’

Maybe. But facing centers such as the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Pistons’ Andre Drummond — both of whom were All-Stars last season — in his first two games?

Welcome to the NBA.

‘‘I’m first and foremost trying to execute the game plan,’’ Carter said. ‘‘At the same time, I’m trying to pick up as many little tricks these guys throw at me as I can.

‘‘With them being more experienced and already making a mark on this league, I feel like certain things are going to happen against me that I can’t control. But I just have to pick up everything I can, big and small. . . . I wouldn’t want to learn any other way.’’

Coach Fred Hoiberg named Carter the Bulls’ starting center late in training camp. Even with the team 0-2 and Carter struggling with foul trouble, no change is being discussed.

‘‘Two really tough matchups for Wendell,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘I thought he battled [Saturday against the Pistons] and did a really good job after a tough one that first night against Embiid. But Wendell’s not going to back down from anybody. He’s shown that. For a 19-year-old, he’s doing a lot of good things right now.’’


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Drummond had 13 rebounds but scored only 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Considering Embiid had 30 points and 12 rebounds Thursday, it was a much better showing for Carter.

Carter, meanwhile, has scored eight points in each game, but he hasn’t been able to flex his muscles on the glass or in terms of blocking shots.

‘‘Yeah, that has to get better,’’ Carter said. ‘‘That’s how I can help my team.’’

But only if he can stay on the court. Foul trouble has been Carter’s biggest problem so far, as well as understanding when he needs to leave his man and step forward to protect the rim.

‘‘It’s still taking some figuring out, but I feel like so far it’s more of a feel for the game,’’ Carter said. ‘‘You kind of have to learn your personnel, got to know what the person you’re going against is good at, find that balance in committing to one or the other.’’

The good news is that Carter is committed to improving in every way possible.

‘‘It takes time in this league, and a lot of it has to do with the matchups against two of the best centers in the Eastern Conference,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘He’ll get better from it; he’ll learn from it. He’s a smart kid with a high IQ, and he’ll get better.’’

By the way, Carter’s next challenge is Monday against the Mavericks’ DeAndre Jordan in Dallas, who was an All-Star in 2016-17.

‘‘Fact,’’ Carter said with a laugh. ‘‘I love a challenge.’’

NOTE: The Bulls made their signing of guard Shaquille Harrison official Sunday. They waived center Omer Asik to make room for him.

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