The re-education of Wendell Carter is underway for Bulls
It has been a shaky first two preseason games for the seventh overall pick from the 2018 draft, but Carter’s confidence remains high, and coach Billy Donovan has high hopes for him.
Wendell Carter Jr. knows the numbers.
His shot might be a bit shaky, but his confidence isn’t.
“It’s still great,’’ Carter said in a Zoom call Tuesday, hours before the Bulls flew to Oklahoma City for their last two preseason games. “My coaching staff is still behind me. They understand that this is a huge change from last year. They’re relying on me to make my open shots from the three-point line. My confidence is still high, they’re still backing me up, so I’m good.’’
Carter shot 4-for-18 from the field, including 1-for-9 from three-point range, in the two preseason games against the Rockets.
“I think we’re asking [Carter] to do something to expand his game,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “I think he’s capable of doing that. I understand that it’s not going to happen overnight. He’s going to have some setbacks. He’s got to have a resiliency and a mental toughness to work through those things. I think it’s the best thing for our team if we want to evolve and grow out the team. Wendell was really a roller the last couple of years. He’s also battled some injuries.
“I do think when you watch on film, he does have the ability to pass the basketball and make good decisions. But we’re utilizing him in a way he wasn’t utilized throughout his career. For me, after two preseason games and these guys having nine months off from playing and then having six contact practices and two non-contact practices, to sit there and say, ‘Oh, I don’t believe he can do it. We’ve got to totally revamp what we’re doing,’ I don’t think that would be fair. There are going to be some ups and downs.’’
It’s safe to say that Carter’s re-education is in its early stages.
The offense he displayed under former coach Fred Hoiberg had the organization excited. Coming out of Duke, Carter flashed a nice mid-range touch and got in a three-pointer now and then before a thumb injury derailed his rookie season.
The hope was those skills would continue to blossom in his second season, especially his outside game. After a full season under Jim Boylen, however, the bump was small.
Carter’s scoring average went from 10.3 points to 11.3 despite playing four more minutes per game in an offense that featured three-point shots. But Carter’s role in Boylen’s offense was much different than he expected.
He was a facilitator when the ball came his way and more often than not had to do the dirty work inside. Developing the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft seemed to be an afterthought.
That’s where Donovan comes in. He has a long to-do list for turning the franchisearound, and changing Carter’s role in the offense is near the top of it.
“I think Wendell’s a high-character guy,’’ Donovan said. “He wants to win. He wants to help the team. I think he really is very hard on himself. He holds himself really accountable and holds himself to a high level. And when you have a player like that, you feel good about trying to help that guy continue to grow and evolve.
“It’s going to be a process for him, and it’s going to take some time. But I know he’s going to work hard to improve the thing that he’s doing.’’