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Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. to miss 8-to-12 weeks after thumb surgery

So much for Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. dodging an injury bullet.

The team announced Friday that the rookie starter has a significant injury to his left thumb. Carter, last year’s No. 7 overall draft pick, was examined by the Bulls’ hand specialists, Drs. John Fernandez and Mark Cohen, who recommended  ligament surgery that would sideline him eight to 12 weeks — or basically the rest of the season.

It was a crazy turn of events after Carter was first hurt Tuesday night in Los Angeles, bending the thumb back as he fell to the court. Initially, it was feared he had torn a ligament after X-rays showed instability. But an MRI exam done Wednesday morning seemed to indicate it was just a sprain and Carter would be day-to-day. He even tried to participate in Thursday’s shootaround in Denver before the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Nuggets.

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With the Bulls back home in Chicago, Carter was sent to see the specialists before practice Friday, and the news turned bad.

It’s a huge gut-punch for the Bulls, given the focus on Carter’s development and the edge he brought to a team that lacks any real defenders. In the 44 games he has started, he has averaged 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and a team-leading 1.3 blocks.