Every game brings a new experience for Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Whether it’s playing against a historic team (the Warriors) or matching up against stars (Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on Wednesday being the latest example), Carter can apply something from each appearance.
“There’s only so much film can do once you get in the game with a certain player,’’ said Carter, who had 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks in the Bulls’ 108-107 OT loss to Denver. ‘‘You’re not going to know every move he’s going to do or what he’s going to do every time he comes out, if he’s going to be hot making all his shots. The film helps a little bit, but being on the court is a whole different [thing].”
The matchup with Jokic was just another early test for Carter, who also has faced Joel Embiid of the 76ers and Andre Drummond of the Pistons.
“You can tell he’s getting more comfortable every time he steps on the floor,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The great thing about Wendell — you could see it the first day that we saw him on the floor — is that he’s not going to back down from anybody. He takes these challenges head on, and he learns from each experience that he has on the floor against all these bigs that have different skill sets.”
While Carter has been able to learn, Michael Porter Jr., a player some wanted the Bulls to take last June, is still waiting for his chance.
Expected to be one of the top college players last season, Porter only appeared in three games for Missouri after undergoing back surgery in November 2017. Doubts about Porter’s health hurt his draft stock, dropping him to No. 14, where the Nuggets scooped him up after teams passed on him despite his high ceiling. Porter then had a second surgery in July, hasn’t played this season and doesn’t have a timetable for a return.
Carter, meanwhile, is showing growth.
In a lost cause Monday against the Warriors, Carter had 18 points. Two days earlier against the Hawks, Carter had his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Each game, I’m finding my spots on the court, getting more comfortable on the court, and my teammates are having more trust in me,” Carter said.
At the end of the shootaround, Lauri Markkanen was seen chatting with Hoiberg. Markkanen, who injured his right elbow during practice Sept. 27, hasn’t played this season and was expected to be out six to eight weeks.
So what were they talking about? Hoiberg claimed it didn’t involve basketball.
“We were talking about fishing,” he deadpanned.
Hoiberg said there’s no target date for Markkanen’s season debut, but he’s still two to four weeks away from returning.
Markkanen is on the running track to do straight-line running after being on a treadmill and a bike last week. He’s getting back into the weight room and has done lower-body work and is starting to do some upper-body training, as well.
“He’s still a couple of weeks away from really doing anything as far as contact, but it is good to see him upping his activity,” Hoiberg said.
Another injured Bull, Denzel Valentine (left ankle), will get a scan Thursday.