Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. is getting comfortable in coach Billy Donovan’s system.
It was apparent when he scored 10 points in the first quarter Friday against MVP candidate Joel Embiid. And he did it with ease.
“I just feel like it’s about being aggressive and being confident in yourself,’’ Carter said. “I feel like every game I gain a little bit more confidence. It’s something I have to continue to do, continue to get better at. I know that I am a better player, and my teammates believe in me. It’s just about self-confidence. I am slowly developing that, and it’s getting better and better each game.’’
That’s a good attitude to have because, as Donovan explained Saturday, it doesn’t sound like help is coming from the training room to the Bulls’ frontcourt anytime soon.
Lauri Markkanen, who has been the primary backup center to Carter on many nights, as well as the starting power forward, is still unable to get on the court and participate in basketball activities with the team because of his sprained right shoulder.
“Still dealing with soreness there,’’ Donovan said. “I mentioned the other day that the mornings are always a little bit more difficult from sleeping to getting up. But no real new updates from what was put out previously.
‘‘He is progressing; he is feeling better. He can do conditioning because obviously it’s his shoulder. He can do running, and he’s fine with that. Still, nothing on the court with us as a team, not that we’ve had a lot of practice time. The timetable has not changed.’’
The good news is there have been no setbacks, so by mid-March, Markkanen should be up and running. The bad news is the Bulls have to continue playing short-handed, while increasing veteran Thad Young’s minutes.
The status of Otto Porter Jr. (back) remained basically unchanged, but Donovan couldn’t hide his concern.
“He’s done nothing in practice, but he has gotten shots up, and he has been doing more physically,’’ Donovan said. “Still do not know a timetable of when he’ll actually be back.
‘‘I think the biggest part is just to try to get him where he’s feeling right and feeling good that he can go out there. The hard part, to be quite honest with you, is every day that goes by is a day where he loses more conditioning.
“My concern is gonna be once he starts feeling better to get back out there playing and doing those things, how much time it will take for him to get back his conditioning and his timing and all those kinds of things.’’
Guard Zach LaVine would definitely like to see more W’s this season, but he did admit that a big difference from last season is that large deficits no longer intimidate this group.
“When teams play us, they know we’re going to fight, we’re gonna claw back,’’ LaVine said. “Even if we have a bad quarter or bad possession, we can turn it around pretty quickly.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on throughout this year, and now it has been helped with Billy changing our mindset to ‘It’s not over till it’s over.’ ’’