NEW YORK — It’s not necessarily a conversation Wendell Carter Jr. wants to have when the season-ending exit meetings go down.
It’s a conversation he feels like he has to have.
Carter grew up playing power forward, he played it in high school and he played the position during his one season at Duke, interchanging with fellow big man Marvin Bagley III. Since making him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft, however, the Bulls have found Carter’s skills more suitable at center.
Carter said he wouldn’t mind discussing a possible position change after the season with his bosses.
“Coach [Jim Boylen] understands that I’m a great defender no matter who I’m guarding,’’ Carter said, ‘‘but he also understands that one of the reasons we’re in the black is because of my size because I’m not as tall. I mean, I’m more mobile than most fives, so I’m able to be up, slide, all that.
“I’ve been playing the four all of my life. Even when I was at Duke, me and Marvin were kind of interchangeable at the four, so I don’t know. It’s definitely a conversation I’m going to bring up, but as of right now, I’m just trying to make it work with where I’m at.’’
On most nights, when healthy, he does make it work. Then a game like the one on Saturday happens.
He was drafted at 6-10, but once the NBA clamped down on the exaggeration of heights — a common practice for years — Carter magically shrunk to 6-9. But because he is close to 280 solid pounds with a 7-5 wingspan, he gets by.
That is, until a true 7-footer with some athleticism is thrown at him, such as the Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, or if he has to go up against a center who not only has height on him but can match his muscle.
Carter started off the game against the Knicks with a solid matchup, getting former Bull Taj Gibson the first few times down the floor. Because Carter was on a minutes restriction, fresh off a right ankle injury that had him on the shelf since Jan. 6, he played shorter stints throughout the game.
When he did get Robinson, it didn’t go well. Not that it did for any of the Bulls’ big men, as Robinson finished 11-for-16 from the field for 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
In a perfect world, Carter would be enjoying the same situation he had at Duke, playing alongside a 6-10, 6-11 interchangeable big man. The hope was 7-footer Lauri Markkanen would expand his game to fill that void, but because of health issues or his role in the offense, it never happened this season.
Maybe that’ll change next season. Carter hopes so.
“Are you saying [Carter] could play some four someday? Probably,’’ Boylen said. “I think he could, but he’s missed 50-some games in two years, so before we get there, we just gotta get him healthy and get him into a rhythm.’’
Carter is all for that. But he also wants some winning to start happening. He’s only a second-year player, but he’s definitely looking to have a voice in this rebuild. Losing just isn’t cutting it.
“Everybody has got to be able to look at themselves and know that even though we go out there and play well individually, we didn’t play well as a team,’’ Carter said. “If we can get everybody to understand that individual stats — someone doing something individually very good — do not lead to wins. Including myself, we’ve got to learn that none of that [expletive] matters if you’re not winning.’’