Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. says the reputation that he’s injury-prone is unfair
Big man Daniel Gafford hopes he can fit in with the starting unit and bring some energy while Carter is out.
It’s not a label Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. likes or thinks accurately describes him.
At the same time, he gets it. He can’t change the minds of his critics when his NBA résumé lends credence to their argument.
‘‘I hate the label of being injury-prone or always injured and things like that, so that gets kind of tough,’’ Carter said in a video conference. ‘‘[But] I look inside the business, the people who are a part of this business, they understand that all these injuries weren’t because I wasn’t prepared or weren’t because I wasn’t doing the necessary things to make sure my body could withstand the season.
‘‘There are people I want to please, just like being out there on the court and helping my team win. And I can’t really do much from the timeline, so it’s definitely tough.’’
Carter’s list of injuries since the Bulls made him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft is lengthy. Thumb surgery, an abdominal injury, an ankle injury and now a bruised right quadriceps that will keep him out for at least four weeks.
But Carter isn’t looking for advice from anyone because he knows a player only can control so much.
‘‘I feel like this is more of an internal thing, especially with the fact of these all being unavoidable injuries,’’ Carter said. ‘‘I just feel like it’s definitely a time for me to really self-reflect. I think I’ve had more than enough time to self-reflect, and now I can just focus on myself, trying to get my head space and my body back right and just try to come back and be just as good or even better.’’
Until then, expect the Bulls to have some problems.
Yes, Carter has some flaws, but he also has some strengths the Bulls will miss. Even being undersized for the position on most nights, he’s as physical a presence as the Bulls have, especially in the screen game.
Guard Zach LaVine knows his life just got tougher when it comes to trying to free himself from opposing defenders.
‘‘[Carter] means a lot to our team,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘He clears up a lot of stuff for us defensively. Me and him got in a pretty good rhythm on pick-and-rolls, with him in that little short roll and being able to get to his floater and things like that. So, you know, it sucks. We’re gonna obviously have to play without him for a little bit, and he’s gonna come back and get right back into the swing of things. But he means a lot for the team, so we’re gonna miss him.’’
Backup Daniel Gafford hopes the Bulls won’t miss Carter too much. He is penciled in to replace Carter in the starting lineup and hopes he can fill the vacancy.
‘‘Just mainly like my energy and whatnot,’’ Gafford said of the strengths he hopes to bring. ‘‘I’m usually coming off the bench with a lot of energy. I’m always juiced up and ready to go. Now I’ve just got to be able to come out with that energy at the beginning of the game until [Carter] gets back.
‘‘I have to be a lot better on offense and I have to be a lot better on defense with certain things, especially since I’m in the starting five. Because that’s the way we start off games now.’’