Bulls need to fix Wendell Carter Jr. quickly or explore moving on
There’s no question that the big man sounded broken after the latest loss to the Heat on Friday night, and with a day off on Saturday and some slippage in the standings, he needs to get his head on right quickly.
For the Bulls, the day off couldn’t have come at a better time.
They got a chance to sit back and take a breath Saturday after two losses in which their lack of physical play was concerning.
It was a day for the front office to possibly reassess the team’s direction and work the phones as the trade deadline approaches.
And it was a day to try to piece Wendell Carter Jr. back together again.
Carter, indeed, sounded broken after the Bulls’ 101-90 loss Friday to the Heat, the second consecutive game in which he was outplayed by a backup and the fifth straight game in which he scored in single digits. He resembled a passive bystander, not the player selected No. 7 overall in the 2018 draft who was supposed to be a double-double machine.
The stats and the eye test clearly expose his struggles, but his demeanor in the postgame Zoom presser Friday revealed a player deep in the doldrums.
“[I have to improve] offensively, you know, finishing around the rim,’’ Carter said. “I feel like I’ve regressed in that area of being more aggressive on the offensive end.
‘‘Just trying to play the right way, do everything that everybody is telling me to do, but at the same time, I understand that me being aggressive will be better for my team. So I just got to play a lot better on the offensive end.’’
That’s an accurate assessment.
A 1-for-5 showing against the Heat, who were switching everything defensively, was a head-scratcher, especially when Carter would get switched to a guard and still pass the ball out rather than take advantage of the smaller opponent
Bulls ballhandlers far too often ignored the matchup advantage, but Carter lately hasn’t shown that he can be trusted to finish plays.
“We missed him an awful lot against switches,’’ said coach Billy Donovan, doing his best to protect his guy. “He was down inside, and there were probably a couple of plays where we found him in the middle of the floor, and he kind of took it and threw it right back out to the three-point line.
‘‘Whether or not he could have shot it or whether or not he should have passed it, I’ll have to take a look at the film on that.’’
Carter admitted that his teammates missed him on some potential mismatches, but he was self-aware enough to criticize his own shortcomings, especially when asked why he was struggling around the rim so much lately, shooting 32% in his last five games.
“I don’t even know, honestly,’’ Carter said. “I work on it every day.
‘‘I’m very capable of making these shots. I don’t know. I don’t even have an answer for that one.’’
The halfway point has arrived, and considering the logjam in the Eastern Conference standings, Carter has to get better — and quickly. He needs to get back on board or possibly get traded.
“I think he has confidence,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. “We were all talking to him. I think he’s just extremely competitive, and he doesn’t take what he does lightly. He knows how important to the team he is. We pick him up. I think he’s going to be just fine. He’s a mentally strong dude.’’
They better hope so.