Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is putting Robin Lopez in quite a predicament

SHARE Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is putting Robin Lopez in quite a predicament
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Bulls center Robin Lopez’s unselfishness only goes so far.

Lopez entered training camp this week in an interesting predicament. On one hand, he has a history of being the ultimate locker-room guy, including being helpful to young players. On the other hand, the latest young guy the Bulls’ brass would like to see Lopez mentor is a 19-year-old rookie trying to take his job.

So which Lopez did first-round pick Wendell Carter Jr. encounter as the Bulls officially started camp Tuesday?

‘‘It’s a little bit of both,’’ Carter said with a snicker. ‘‘Anytime we’re on the court, he’s coming at me, but I feel like that’s the only way I can get better. If he comes out just trying to teach me without going hard every play, then I won’t really learn. I feel like you learn more from the players than the coaches. You learn from your teammates more than the coaches or assistant coaches.’’

And Carter is a willing sponge these days.

The starting-center spot is really the only position not penciled in right now. Because of his age (30) and experience, Lopez likely will begin the regular season as the starter, but nothing has been promised. Carter is well aware of that.

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‘‘Robin Lopez is a phenomenal player,’’ Carter said when asked about trying to win that spot. ‘‘We’re both competitors, and we’re just both competing for that spot. Coach [Fred Hoiberg] said that spot is open, so I’m coming into training camp thinking there are no defined starters. Just coming in and trying to prove myself every day.’’

What Carter has in his favor — and already offered a glimpse of in the Summer League — is an ability to switch out on a guard defensively and hold his own. That’s not bad for a 6-10, 250-pounder, especially with the coaching staff looking to implement a new switching-style defense.

‘‘That’s going to be a weapon for us,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. ‘‘Obviously, that was our primary defense this summer in Vegas to see how everything looked with the switching.

‘‘I thought Wendell was as good as anyone we had as far as moving his feet. Great anticipation. When the guard got by him, he pursued the play and had a lot of unbelievable blocks from behind. So he certainly is a guy we will feel comfortable with if and when we do go to that defense. But right now, it’s still all about the basics.’’

Lopez will be eligible for free agency next summer and certainly will be a trade candidate at some point this season. No wonder Hoiberg wants Carter shadowing Lopez as much as possible in camp, whether Lopez likes it or not.

‘‘Robin is really good for Wendell,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘[Lopez is] going into his 11th year, and he’s a 30-year-old and a consummate pro and a great vet to teach Wendell what it’s all about to be a professional. And Wendell is not backing down at all.’’

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