Few moments leave Bulls center Robin Lopez in disbelief.
After playing for five organizations — including the dysfunctional Knicks — since being drafted in 2008, Lopez had developed a certain numbness.
Then on Feb. 6, when Lopez and his teammates were in uniform, less than 20 minutes from taking the court to face the Pelicans, Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker were called out of the locker room separately to be informed they had just been traded.
“That was pretty crazy,’’ Lopez said. “That was one of the stranger things I’ve witnessed. If I had been in that position, I don’t know if I would want it to happen 10 minutes before the game. But that’s the way it is.
“You just keep playing, keep your nose to the grindstone.’’
That sums up Lopez’s tenure as a Bull perfectly. Consider all the organizational land mines that have gone off since he arrived in the Derrick Rose trade to the Knicks: from a towel-throwing incident between Rajon Rondo and then-assistant coach Jim Boylen to an ongoing rebuild to an attempted player mutiny that Lopez played a big role in squashing. All the while, he mostly has been a trade rumor.
When Lopez wasn’t moved at the deadline, he instantly became a buyout candidate, but vice president of basketball operations John Paxson put the kibosh on that course of action.
Rather than point fingers or show any signs of frustration, Lopez has played possibly his best basketball in two years.
In his last six games, the 7-footer is averaging 15 points and 1.3 blocks, and he had a stellar 25-point performance in the Bulls’ 122-110 victory Wednesday against the Grizzlies.
More important, he continues to do the dirty work — including drag screens on opposing defenders when Lauri Markkanen is bringing the ball up the floor — knowing that free agency is only a few months away and his time with the Bulls likely will be over.
“I’m a basketball player,’’ Lopez said. “I just compete every night, play some good ball and try to get better.’’
Because of the Bulls’ shortage at center, a buyout and the chance to go to a playoff team likely won’t happen for Lopez, and he’s not the type to make that demand.
The Bulls certainly will miss him as the rebuild moves forward next season.
Their thinking, however, is that Wendell Carter Jr. is the center of the future, and he just might be. But before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left thumb, there were some red flags.
The Bulls list Carter at 6-10, but he has come up small against bigger, more physical centers.
Rudy Gobert dominated Carter, as did Nikola Vucevic and LaMarcus Aldridge. Did Carter struggle because he’s only 19 or was it because the Bulls are trying to turn a power forward into an undersized center?
Time will tell, and that basically sums up the state of the Bulls’ center position.
Wendell Carter Jr.: The rookie showed a lot of promise, but the season-ending thumb injury was a huge blow to the development process.
Cristiano Felicio: It’s hard to pinpoint what’s worse — the contract that general manager Gar Forman gave Felicio or the big man’s hands.
Robin Lopez: It will be awhile before the Bulls find another player this unselfish on and off the court.