Wendell Carter Jr. practiced fully on Sunday and, barring a setback, is in line for an earlier-than-expected return from his right quadriceps injury that he suffered in practice on Jan. 20.
"He’s certainly moving closer and closer to playing," coach Billy Donovan said.
Carter initially suffered the injury when Denzel Valentine kneed him in what doctors unfortunately described to Carter as the perfect spot. On Jan. 26, the Bulls announced Carter would be re-evaluated in four weeks after an MRI exam revealed a "significant" bruise.
Instead, less than three weeks from those test results, Carter took contact and participated in the Bulls' practice that even featured 5-on-5 work.
"I thought it was a step in the right direction that he was able to complete everything," Donovan said. "He has certainly made some progress."
The Bulls left Sunday afternoon for a three-game trip that begins Monday against the Pacers. They play the Hornets on Wednesday and 76ers on Friday. Their only back-to-back set of games concludes Saturday when they return home to face the Kings.
"Eventually, we’re going to have to throw him in there with the number of games coming and the limited amount of practice time," Donovan said. "(Sunday) was a good day for the fact we were able to practice and go up and down and do some 5-on-5 and he was able to participate in all of those things. And he looked fine doing it. I don’t think there was any problems at least while that was going on. We’ll see how he responds to the workload."
Carter's return would be welcome news for a team that has been decimated by absences. Otto Porter Jr. is still rehabilitating a bad back, Lauri Markkanen is doing only conditioning as he battles a shoulder injury and Chandler Hutchison, who banged knees with a teammate during Sunday's practice, is out indefinitely for personal reasons.
Carter is the Bulls' best screen setter and interior defender and had shown growth in his passing ability out of the high post before his injury. He is averaging 12.8 points, 8 rebounds and a career-high 2.4 assists in 14 games. It's the third straight season that Carter has endured an extended absence due to injury.