Bulls

Wendell Carter Jr. flashed his full potential against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz

Wendell Carter Jr. flashed his full potential against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz

It’s easy to forget Wendell Carter Jr. is only in his second NBA season. Performances like the one he just put together against Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz illustrate that sentiment to a tee.

In the box score, Carter matched Gobert — two-time Defensive Player of the Year, second best career field goal percentage in NBA history (min. 2000 attempts) — pound for pound, tallying 18 points, 13 rebounds (6 offensive) and four assists to Gobert’s 17 points, 12 rebounds (2 offensive) and 3 blocks. It was Carter's 16th double-double in 35 games this season.

“Man, Wendell’s been amazing all season long. Can’t say enough good things about him,” Thad Young said. “Arch [Ryan Arcidiacono] was asking me about what is it Wendell needs to do to take the next steps as far as being an elite defender, an elite big in this league. I told him, honestly, he really has all the tools, he just has to keep brushing them up each and every year.

“Games like that can turn him into an All-Star type big.”

Those are glowing words, especially from a vet of Young’s stature. Also encouraging is the fact that Carter’s impact doesn’t stop at the stat sheet. 

Those 13 rebounds fail to fully encapsulate the rabid yet fundamentally sound box-outs Carter persistently put on Gobert to free up teammates to crash the glass. Nor do his goose eggs in the blocks and steals columns account for the crisp, on-time rotations that routinely forced the Jazz into tough, and sometimes destructive, decisions.

Gobert had moments of dominance on the glass, but Carter jostled him around all night, even while giving up four inches of height and five years of experience. In this sequence, he recovers from the perimeter to snare a contested board over Gobert, then bodies him en route to a layup on the other end:   

Here, he boxes Gobert out of the play, allowing Lauri Markkanen to swoop in:

“I’m not going to be the tallest out there, I’m not going to be the strongest, the fastest, but I know I’ll be able to beat my opponents in one or two ways throughout the game,” Carter said. “Whether it’s being more physical than him, boxing him out, creating space, getting into their body… Those are the ways that I can find a way to beat him out.”

His awareness and smarts show up in every phase of the game. Though they boast a top five defense, the Bulls have at times struggled to stay connected on the back end of rotations, ceding an abundance of open looks at the rim and behind the arc. But don’t fault Carter there. He's a heat-seeking missile on every defensive possession, leaping out to blitz pick-and-rolls, adeptly maneuvering his way back to his man and fearlessly taking on the brunt of help assignments when teammates are in need:

The fluidity of his defensive movement jumps off the screen. Watch how much ground he covers on these two possessions:

“You have some guys that are ahead of the curve and some guys that it takes a little time,” Young said of Carter’s basketball IQ. “I think Wendell is further ahead of the curve just because of the mentality he brings to the game, his physical nature when he walks out on the court."

His brand of savvy is rare for a 20-year-old big. And he's still only 79 games into his NBA career.

“To say it’s his second year, I understand that. I think he’s just at a full NBA season now," Jim Boylen said. "The credit goes to him. He’s an intelligent, tough-minded, developing young player... He’s a big part of what we’re doing and our future.”

The offensive potential is there, too — on the first play of the game, Carter stroked an in rhythm 3-pointer, then whipped out a touch floater a few possessions later. As a facilitator, his work as a screener and dribble-handoff hub generated a handful of open looks for Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky.

This Satoransky jumper stymied an 11-0 Jazz run:

 

"He can be that kind of elbow type player that can be kind of like that Al Horford type player who can do a lot of different things, who can make passes, who can shoot the basketball, has great touch on the inside but also man the paint," Young said.

Those aspects of his game are still a work in progress, especially in the context of the Bulls' current offensive system. But for the time being, these types of flashes on both ends against high-level competition — along with his established tenacity on the offensive glass and putback plays — are enough to validate the notion that Carter is ahead of schedule.

“It just shows that with a little bit more confidence, I can hang with these premiere bigs in this league,” Carter said. “I just look at the situation like, 'Oh, Rudy is a great big, but I think I'm one of the great bigs in this league, too.' And now I'm just able to show the whole world that I am.”

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Pacers GM Chad Buchanan pulls out of consideration for Bulls' front office job

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USA Today

Pacers GM Chad Buchanan pulls out of consideration for Bulls' front office job

Chad Buchanan has worked closely and successfully with Kevin Pritchard at two NBA franchises, including their current situation with the Indiana Pacers. Pritchard currently serves as the Pacers' president of basketball operations, Buchanan the general manager.

Ultimately, that comfort level and a strong personal situation led Buchanan to wanting to stay put in Indiana. Buchanan, one of Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf’s four initial interview targets to run basketball operations in a new-look front office, conveyed his desire to stay, according to a source. The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported the news.

The Bulls remain hopeful to receive permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster and Heat vice president of basketball operations/assistant general manager Adam Simon. Reinsdorf’s goal is to build a front office with depth, and whomever is hired to head Bulls’ basketball operations could make additional hires and be charged with overhauling the scouting department.

Executive vice president John Paxson, who largely initiated the need to modernize the front office, is expected to remain in an advisory role. However, Paxson has made clear to ownership he’s willing to play as large or as small a role as the new head of basketball operations desires.

The future of general manager Gar Forman, who largely has been moved to a scouting position, could be determined by the new hire.

As previously reported, Reinsdorf remains a fan of coach Jim Boylen. However, whomever the Bulls hire to run basketball operations will have full authority, including ultimately deciding the coaching staff’s future.

One rising force in the Bulls’ front office who is expected to be safe is assistant general manager Steve Weinman, a source said. He has made an impression not only internally but among rival league executives for his salary cap acumen and knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement.

It’s Reinsdorf’s goal to have the hire in place before a possible resumption of the 2019-20 season that has been suspended due to the COVID-19 virus. Most league observers believe any potential resumption is multiple weeks if not months away, and there is some planning for the potential loss of the balance of the season.

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Report: NBA and ESPN planning a televised H-O-R-S-E competition

Report: NBA and ESPN planning a televised H-O-R-S-E competition

The NBA and ESPN are teaming up to plan a televised H-O-R-S-E competition among "several high-profile players," according to reporting by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

It's the latest in a line of creative ideas from the NBA and ESPN to fill the void left by the indefinite suspension of live sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday night, ESPN broadcast the first half of the first round of a players-only NBA 2K20 tournament, to run through April 11.

No details have emerged as it relates to a timeline of events, which players would participate or what the format of the H-O-R-S-E competition would be.

Players would trade trick shots virtually, according to Wojnarowski. Many NBA players undoubtedly have private home gyms or courts from which they could safely compete.

This isn't the first time the NBA has waded into the H-O-R-S-E waters. In 2009 and 2010, H-O-R-S-E was broadcast on TNT as a regular part of All-Star weekend festivities before being cancelled in 2011 (Kevin Durant won the competition both years). And understandably so. This matchup, between Durant and Rajon Rondo, devolved into a standstill 3-point contest narrated by a boisterous Charles Barkley:

That event was a reclamation of a 32-player H-O-R-S-E tournament the league broadcast on CBS during the 1977-78 season, which Paul Westphal won over Rick Barry. Barry made the finals as a replacement for an injured Pete Maravich, who absolutely trounced his way through the tourney. 

At least there was some creativity back then:

Of course, all of the league's past H-O-R-S-E experiments were held in person with fans in attendance. It remains to be seen how they'll look to spice up this iteration of the competition.

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