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Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. still working on staying foul free

Carter knows that the best way to impact the game is to be on the floor. The easiest way to stay on the floor is to stay out of early foul trouble. It’s a simple formula that Carter is still trying to perfect.

“With me being an overly aggressive player, it’s just something I had to learn,’’ the Bulls Wendelll Carter Jr. said about staying out of foul trouble.
“With me being an overly aggressive player, it’s just something I had to learn,’’ the Bulls Wendelll Carter Jr. said about staying out of foul trouble.
Matt Marton/AP

MILWAUKEE — It’s pretty simple for second-year big man Wendell Carter Jr. at this point: Move the feet on defense, he’s good. Start reaching and playing with the hands too much, enjoy a lot of time near head trainer Jeff Tanaka. That’s where foul trouble usually gets you seated.

Welcome to the latest obstacle that Carter is looking to overcome in his development.

“With me being an overly aggressive player, it’s just something I had to learn,’’ Carter said, pointing back to even his college days as that being an issue. “I struggled with that my first couple of games at Duke. I knew it was going to kind of be a struggle for me, knowing that the game was going to be a lot faster with a lot stronger players. I feel like, once again, I’ve got another year under my belt so I know exactly how to play players and how to stay away from fouls.’’

Well, he’s getting there.

In the win over Atlanta last weekend, Carter was in foul trouble most of the night, finishing with 13 minutes played and just two points.

Earlier in the year at Memphis, same thing. Foul trouble throughout the game, seven points, seven rebounds.

Carter wants to impact the team, and rightfully so, but making sure he can stay available is where it starts. Coach Jim Boylen has been constantly reminding the 6-foot-9 center of that. Boylen has been getting Carter to understand that he doesn’t have to blitz every pick-and-roll like a linebacker and he doesn’t have to challenge every shot at the rim.

Carter’s aggressiveness is appreciated, but also needs to be focused at the right times.

“Yeah, absolutely I use that,’’ Carter said of his aggressive style of play. “That’s something I would put in my scouting report, ‘Very aggressive player.’

“I had to [tone it down]. One thing about me, I don’t like people to score, whether it’s my man or someone else’s man. I had to learn that everybody is in this league because they know how to put the ball in the basket. They’re going to score sometimes. I’ve just got to move on.’’

Which he seems to be doing.

In the loss to the Rockets, Carter stayed out of foul trouble and scored 13 points with 16 rebounds. In the win over New York on Tuesday, same formula and 17 points with 12 rebounds.

Not bad for a guy that seldom has plays called for him on the offensive end.

“This is my second year,’’ Carter said. “I’ve got one year under my belt. I know exactly what to expect when I’m playing. I just find ways to affect the game, whether it’s scoring, rebounding or playing good defense. I found my niche for the game, and I’m just going to try to build off of that.’’

Mascot killer

Robin Lopez is known league-wide for his “interaction’’ with opposing mascots through the years, but Boylen again praised the one-time Bull for what he brought to the locker room over the years.

“You always love a vet that practices every day,’’ Boylen said of Lopez. “He loved practice. He came in and worked every day. I thought that helped our culture, it helped our young guys understand you can play in the league 10, 12 years, you can practice every day.

“He was very supportive of me in the transition, which you all know can be very difficult, a mid-season transition. I’m thankful I had a chance to coach him and I wish him the best.’’

Lopez joined the Bucks as a free agent this offseason.