Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. is focused on becoming a defensive force
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LAS VEGAS — By the time Sunday morning rolled around on the Vegas Strip, Wendell Carter Jr.’s block on the Cavaliers’ Ante Zizic had gone from Saturday night highlight to Summer League ’18 folklore.
While Carter downplayed just how great the play was, his grin spoke volumes.
“I saw it on TV while I was eating,’’ Carter said. “Just another effort thing. I hate getting scored on, I hate people to score, so I want to block as many shots as I can.’’
This was more than just a block — it was a statement.
During the first quarter of the 86-81 victory over the Cavs, Zizic seemed to have a clear path to the basket. Carter, whom the Bulls selected No. 7 overall in the draft last month, chased the play from behind and not only pinned the ball on the glass, but did so with two hands before ripping it free and keeping possession.
It was one of his five blocks in the game, and Carter promised many more once the games start meaning something.
“I’m just a competitor and find a way to affect the game any way I can, that I know that I can,’’ Carter said. “Defensively, it’s just sheer effort. It’s something you’ve got to want to do, and that’s something I’ve been taught to do ever since I started playing basketball.
“I knew coming into this next level, on the defensive end, I would definitely prosper.’’
Carter’s teammates should listen to his defensive philosophy, especially considering how bad the Bulls were at times on that end of the floor last season.
Carter was asked whether shot-blocking was more technique or fight, and he had an interesting answer.
“Fight and technique,’’ Carter said. “You don’t want to foul. Certain times you’ve gotta go straight up, certain times you can swipe at it. It is more so fight because if you want to do it, you can do it, you can block shots if you want to. But it’s more of a fight.’’
That wasn’t the only aspect of Carter’s personality that came out Sunday. He knows many scouts knocked his athletic ability coming out of Duke, and he didn’t duck the assessment.
“No, it’s just motivation,’’ Carter said when asked if he took it personally. “I just have to show what I can do. It’s just something I’m going to continue to show as the games go on.’’
The Sun-Times reported after the regular season that there would be pressure on the Bulls’ coaching staff from team brass to find a more sound defensive concept this summer. That is underway.
In the past, associate head coach Jim Boylen — who handles a lot of the defensive game-planning — would make massive switches in concept from game to game, leading to too many missed assignments.
“We’ve studied a lot since the end our season as a staff, and we’ve gotten together,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “This is the time to experiment with things, and we’ll continue to do that.
“Whether we play four games, or however many we have left [in the Summer League], we’re going to do some things and see how we like them heading into training camp next year — what we like, what we don’t like. So we have changed philosophies on certain things with the direction the league is going.’’