Bulls rookie big man Wendell Carter Jr. wasn’t going to take a benching personally.
He didn’t when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sat him during a game last season, and he wasn’t holding a grudge less than 24 hours after Bulls coach Jim Boylen pulled him after only 13-plus minutes in a 112-84 loss Wednesday to the Magic.
‘‘I never want to look at anything in a negative light,’’ Carter, 19, said after practice Thursday. ‘‘There was no negativity in him having me watch most of the game. I definitely feel where he was coming from.’’
So where was Boylen coming from? Well, Carter was 0-for-5 from the field, looked surprisingly lifeless defensively and just wasn’t his usual high-energy self. He was by no means the only culprit in the loss, but Boylen wasn’t having any of it from him.
‘‘Just didn’t need to put him back in,’’ Boylen said after the game. ‘‘Yeah, sometimes you learn by sitting, too. He sees what’s going on in the game. Maybe have some introspection, maybe realize, ‘I’ve got to play my minutes better when I’m out there.’ ’’
Boylen then was asked if he was concerned he might lose Carter mentally in the long term and responded: ‘‘No. Because he’s with me . . . he’s with us.’’
Carter reiterated that Thursday.
‘‘Yeah, of course,’’ Carter said when he was asked whether he could benefit from sitting. ‘‘No matter how I’m learning the game, I always try to find ways to find things that are positive about every single thing.
‘‘Next game, I may play 35 minutes. It’s a long season. I know that I’m not going to play 35 minutes every single night.’’
But 13-plus minutes for a rebuilding team looking to develop young talent?
‘‘I thought as a group our energy was low,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I thought as a group our frustration came quickly, which you can’t do in the NBA game. It’s a long game. [Carter] was one of those guys where I thought it came quickly, and it kind of hurt our spirit a little bit during the game. But he’ll bounce back. He’s working right now, and he’s a great kid. He’s a big piece for us.
‘‘I appreciate everything he’s about. I appreciate his physicality. I appreciate his want-to. We talk about being
coachable, we talk about being teachable, we talk about being reliable. He is very coachable, he is very intelligent and he’s becoming reliable, and I’m proud of that.’’
But has he been getting better as the season has gone on? The eye test says no, but he is being asked to do less now that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn are all healthy. Also, the offense has changed significantly from Fred Hoiberg to Boylen, so scoring is down with almost every Bulls player.
‘‘We don’t give that enough credit on how difficult it is, but that is where we are, and I think we’re all adjusting to it,’’ Boylen said, acknowledging the difficulty of Carter having two NBA coaches as a rookie. ‘‘The most important thing is to try and build this thing the right way, build the culture, build the competitiveness. And he’s a guy we see doing that for us for a long time.’’