Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is still singing the praises of Zion Williamson
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In early November, the Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. couldn’t fathom the idea of playing alongside Zion Williamson in anything other than a summer pick-up game on the campus of Duke University or some alumni game in 20 years.
Sure, Carter, who served his one season as a Blue Devil last year, had been hearing the legend of Williamson grow from some of his former teammates, but in Carter’s eyes, his new NBA team was too talented — too deep — to get even a whiff of a top-three lottery spot.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on this roster,’’ Carter said then. “I feel like we’ve just got to go out there and try and win every game. If we lose, but we’re playing hard, that’s one thing, but I don’t feel like … I would feel good losing games on purpose.’’
And that’s the major concern now with this rebuild. The Bulls haven’t been this bad on purpose. They’ve just been bad, period.
The 11-win Bulls are once again in the discussion for landing that top draft pick, and that means a Williamson-Carter frontcourt is also a possibility.
“He’s for sure [going to be the] No. 1 draft pick,’’ Carter said Tuesday. “No doubt about it. I don’t know how anybody can pass up his athleticism, his potential, you know, that’s a freak of nature. Once-in-a-generation-type player. I believe he’s been No. 1.’’
Funny thing is the next time Carter plays a regular-season game in a Bulls uniform, he may actually have Williamson as a teammate.
With the new NBA Draft rules, the bottom three teams in the standings each have a 14 percent chance of grabbing that top spot. It appears the Bulls, Suns, Knicks and Cavaliers will spend the next 11 weeks jockeying for position in that bottom three — by choice or, in some cases, not by choice with the lack of talent several of those teams possess.
Carter had surgery on his left thumb Monday and could miss the rest of the season. But if the Bulls get lucky in the lottery, there’s a chance they will have two Dukies in the starting lineup next season.
Jim Boylen obviously isn’t allowed to discuss anything Williamson, according to NBA rules, but the Bulls’ coach did put a nice bow on Carter’s rookie season — whether the starting center can return before the finale in Philadelphia.
“I love the fact that [Carter] had a few games where maybe he had a few [rough] quarters and then he had a good quarter,’’ Boylen said. “I like guys that can work themselves out of maybe a bad start or a poor moment. I think he grew that way. He improved his shooting, he improved his ability to play in the pocket. I’ve always said he embraces collision and contact and he developed as a defender.
“So just I think he had a great learning curve in those 44 games, and he’ll keep learning. As he’s watching, things will make more sense to him now.’’