So the Bulls can probably hold off awhile before retiring Wendell Carter Jr’s No. 34.
Carter Sunday in the Bulls 69-60 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Las Vegas Summer League had a modest line of nine points, seven rebounds, four blocks and a precautionary early second half benching after banging knees earlier in the game.
“I’m fine,” Carter assured reporters with a shrug after the game. “I probably was (limping). I bumped knees at some point in the first half, so I probably was limping a little. I tried to not show it; just play through it.”
Carter actually did that, though not quite as impressively as his 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in the Game 1 win. He did return late in the second half Sunday to try to rally a Bulls team that began to collapse with his departure. Carter returned and immediately had a pair of blocks and ran off a Lakers dunk attempt before the Lakers pulled away late.
Matt Williams Jr., who played briefly for Miami last season and in the G-league, was the only Bulls player to score in double figures with 12 points. Chandler Hutchison had seven points and eight rebounds, though three of 10 shooting. Antonio Blakeney was two of 15, Ryan Arcidiacono two of nine and Donte Ingram two of seven.
“We didn’t make shots, got beat off the dribble,” said Summer League coach Randy Brown. “They played harder than us; they outplayed us. I have to protect him (Carter). I didn’t think he was running well. He banged knees, but he was fine. It was my call. I told him if he was limping, he was coming out. He said, ‘Coach, I want to play.’ And I (later) granted him his wish.”
But even in a brutally low scoring and erratic offensive game for the team and with his knee jarred, Carter was smooth and reliable again. He was the most active on defense, now with nine blocks in the two games. He shot eight of the Bulls overall 12 free throws, but had just five shots, the fewest of everyone who played more than a minute. That certainly needs to change.
Brown said he would get Carter more opportunities in the post, though Carter is strikingly unselfish and prone to move the ball when necessary. The Bulls trailed 35-29 at halftime, but quickly fell behind by 14 points with Carter watching in the third quarter. When he returned the Bulls made one run to within seven points in the fourth quarter. But another of those 18 turnovers enabled the home team Lakers to pull away.
“I played all right,” Carter said. “But we didn’t win. That’s the main goal and if we didn’t win, I’m not satisfied. I think we were outplayed tonight as a team, not getting back on defense and not rebounding the ball.
“He (Brown) was just looking out for the best for me, going out there and not playing 100 percent and maybe getting hurt even more. I appreciate him looking out for me,” Carter said.
The Bulls next play Tuesday 5 p.m CT against Atlanta and Trae Young on NBA-TV.
It was a tough game for fellow rookie Hutchison, who continually was denied at the rim. He wasn’t able to get the ball in transition much and in the half court he’s not strong enough to finish at the basket yet.
Brown again praised the way the feisty Arcidiacono ran the offense and said he had to play him the most because no one else was nearly as capable. Arcidiacono also led the team with nine rebounds despite being the smallest player on the floor Arcidiacono now has a good opportunity to go beyond his two-way G-league contract and make the Bulls with Jerian Grant traded to Orlando. Loyola’s Ingram appeared a bit more relaxed after opening game jitters and had six rebounds and was two of four on threes. He had the team's only steal.
But even with Carter’s uncertain gait, he was active in weak side defense with his blocks and help that kept the Bulls close early despite the horrid shooting. He took a hard fall early in the second quarter trying to block a shot, but popped up quickly and did finish a sharp pick and roll play with Hutchison. But without Carter after halftime until about nine minutes left, the Bulls could not match the Lakers.
The competitiveness,” Carter said, “has to go up a new notches the next game.”