Wendell Carter Jr. is nearly averaging a double-double this season. He's also averaging 4.2 fouls per game.
Just think what his averages of 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds could be if he played more than 28.4 minutes per game.
"I don't know if it's that I'm being too aggressive," Carter said. "I talk to the refs. Every time I pick up my early fouls, I always try to ask them what exactly am I doing wrong. It seems my body is out of position or my hands are down. It's just a concentration thing with me. I just have to go into the game knowing that I can't be picking up early fouls."
At first, Carter headed down a fine line — pun intended — when asked about his "ticky-tack fouls." Public criticism of officials draws fines from the league office. But the second-year big man caught himself and said his in-game communication with officials is improving and beneficial.
"They definitely are," Carter said, alluding to ticky-tack fouls. "Nah, nah, nah, that's all love. I wouldn't say they're ticky-tack fouls. I just need to do a better job of establishing a better relationship with them so we get a feel for one another, understand that I'm trying to stay out of foul trouble.
"They're helping me. I told them to look at some of my fouls in the first half during halftime and just let me know how I can stay away from those ticky-tack fouls. It's just a conversation we've had between me and the refs. They are humans. At the end of the day, the better relationship, the more benefit of the doubt you'll get. That's what I believe. I have to be more assertive with them and just talk to them and let them know that I'm really not trying to foul. I'm trying to stay in the game and help my team win."
Beyond numbers, Carter's impact on the Bulls' defense is huge because he's the team's best communicator and most mobile big man. The Bulls often employ an aggressive pick-and-roll scheme that involves the center needing to trap the ballhandler and then rotate if a turnover isn't forced initially.
"We show him those plays where he sticks his hands in," coach Jim Boylen said. "His play [in Charlotte] where he was straight up and they hit him in the chest and they called a foul, to the credit of the crew, they came out at halftime and said that was a bad call. So I think sometimes maybe a whistle doesn't go your way. But also he has to take control of his hands. He's a competitive guy. He doesn't want anyone to score on him. He reminds me of Mario Elie. Mario Elie was like that. Dream [Hakeem Olajuwon] was like that. If you scored on Dream, it made him mad. And Wendell doesn't like people to score on him. In those moments, he has to be smarter. He knows it. We talk about it."
Boylen also reminded all that Carter has played just 61 games in his NBA career. In other words, there's room for growth.
Carter said he may ditch the protection he wears on his surgically repaired left thumb around January.
"I'm starting to learn my way around the league, how to score my points, get my rebounds, do the things that matter," Carter said. "I'm just trying to help my team win any way I possibly can."
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