PORTLAND, Ore. — Wendell Carter Jr. doesn’t lose. Or at least he didn’t much before he became a Bull.
The big man was a high school state champion with Pace Academy in Atlanta in 2016, then a Class 3A champion a year later. In his one season at Duke, the Blue Devils went 29-8, falling a game short of the
So you’re dang right he’s not OK with the Bulls going 22-60 in his rookie season and now sitting at 6-14 after a 107-103 loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday night at the Moda Center.
“All my life I’ve won,’’ said the 6-9 forward/center, who had 16 points and nine rebounds Friday. “From little leagues to college. So I don’t think I really have to worry about getting caught up in the losing. What I am worried about is making sure that doesn’t become a habit of this organization. It becomes a standard for us where if we win, everybody is surprised. That’s what you don’t want.
“I know it’s only my second year here, but I don’t want that culture to become Chicago. This organization has been fantastic in the past, so my job as a dedicated player to this team [is] I want to help that winning culture come back around.”
That’s easier said than done with this roster, which again couldn’t finish the job in crunch time. The Bulls cut the Blazers’ lead to two with 31 seconds left, but Hassan Whiteside, who haunted them all night, delivered again with 8.8 seconds left. On a drive by Damian Lillard drive, Carter came over to help with a block attempt, leaving Whiteside in the paint and pinning down Tomas Satoransky on the backside.
Carter accomplished what he wanted, altering Lillard’s attempt, but Whiteside’s tip-in iced the game. Whiteside finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and a franchise-record 10 blocks.
“That was a big shot,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “We got the stop, but he finished it off with the rebound. That’s the lesson in that. We’ll watch it, learn from it and move on.’’
There has been a lot of moving on from losses lately. Preseason playoff talk has quickly spiraled into lottery talk — and deciding whether the pieces the Bulls have added during this three-year rebuild are even worth moving forward with. It’s not at all what Carter expected.
While there might be questions about some others on the roster, Carter says his motives should never be in doubt.
“I’m not really worried about falling into that, ‘Oh, we’re going to lose, [expletive] this, it’s all good.’ ” he said. “Nah, I’m a winner, and on top of that, I don’t care about my stats, I don’t care about points, rebounds, because when we win . . . it’s a business, right? Everybody wants to get paid in this business. We go out and win, [and] everybody gets paid.”
That’s not the usual awareness you see from a 20-year-old, but Carter doesn’t consider himself usual. He has a voice, and even last year as a rookie, he showed he wasn’t afraid to use it. Missing the second half of the season because of thumb surgery was a derailment, but now he’s back and has no problem speaking up alongside the veterans.
“I feel like everybody believes [I can lead] because they all know that I’m not a self-centered leader,” Carter said.