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Bulls forward Bobby Portis gets starting nod for injured Wendell Carter Jr.

DENVER — Tuesday was a long night for rookie big man Wendell Carter Jr.

He hurt his left thumb in the Bulls’ loss to the Lakers, and X-rays after the game initially indicated a possible fracture, which would’ve sidelined him six to eight weeks.

“I was kind of scared, honestly, that I wouldn’t be out there for my team,’’ Carter said Thursday. “I would be sidelined. It just looked bad in terms of so many people having gotten injured this year, and it would be just like another one that’s gotten injured. I’m glad it wasn’t true, but it was definitely weighing on my mind that whole night.’’

MRI results, however, revealed only a sprain. He missed the road finale against the Nuggets but already was insisting that he might be ready to go Saturday against the Heat.

He did try to gut it out in the shootaround to make himself available for the Nuggets.

“I was just favoring it, just trying to make sure the ball didn’t hit it funny or stuff like that,’’ Carter said.

“I feel like that could put my team in jeopardy. I don’t want to be the one out there that’s not able to grab the ball with two hands or do things like that. I didn’t want to be a liability on the defensive end or offensive end.’’

With Carter out, coach Jim Boylen started Bobby Portis. The whole episode might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Carter.

He had started all 44 games and admittedly was starting to feel the rookie wall. So a little breather wouldn’t be the worst thing.

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“It’s definitely a long season,’’ Carter said. “That’s the first thing. We’re pretty much done with a college season, and we’re halfway through. It’s definitely taken a wear on my body, but this is what I’ve been dreaming about doing all my life, so I would rather be doing this than anything else.’’

Free Jabari Parker!

Jabari Parker has worked his way out of the doghouse and back into the rotation, but he has to keep proving himself to Boylen in practices.

‘‘The expectations were laid out to him,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘Practice is important to me. Your approach is important to me. And he’s done a good job. I told him I’m proud of him. It’s good.

“He’s practiced well. That’s one thing. He’s been engaged in practice. And his energy level has been good. In the games, he has driven the ball. He has taken good shots. He has facilitated for his teammates. And he’s trying defensively.’’

Staying the course

Besides Portis being in the lineup for Carter, Boylen had hinted after the loss to the Lakers that he would evaluate changing the starting lineup.

It hasn’t happened, but he’s still thinking about it.

“I just think it’s something that has to be evaluated on a nightly basis,’’ Boylen said.