Bulls

Bulls: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic on the mend

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic on the mend

CHARLOTTE—There’s been no time frame on the return for Jimmy Butler, although Fred Hoiberg said the All-Star guard is feeling better compared to his nasty spill in Denver Friday night.

“Jimmy is receiving treatment back home. He feels better,” Hoiberg said at the morning shootaround at Time Warner Cable Arena, where the Bulls play the Hornets. “We still don’t have a time frame on everything but the important thing is he’s feeling a lot better than he was a couple of days ago. He still has a lot of soreness in there. I would doubt he would play Wednesday but then we’ll kind of make a determination from there.”

[MORE BULLS: After firing Derick Fisher, could Knicks hire Tom Thibodeau?]

There’s a bit of ambiguity with Butler, considering he had to be held back from playing Wednesday night in Sacramento only to come back Friday and injure himself in the second quarter.

Perhaps it’s that reason where the Bulls won’t commit to a timeline, with just one more game before All-Star break and then a long break before the team reconvenes again, in Cleveland on a Thursday night.

“Good question. It’s what it is right now,” Hoiberg said. “It’s an injury that a lot of it is based on how he recovers and the important thing is he’s making progress. We’ll continue to get him treatment and if he can continue to make progress a lot of this will be based on he feels.”

Surgery appears to be ruled out, even a minor procedure and it’ll be a matter of pain management for Butler until the offseason.

“He’s still got a lot of stiffness in it,” Hoiberg said. “It was an injury that had a lot of pain associated with that. It’s just about hopefully continuing to improve every day understanding that there’s going to be a lot of soreness involved with this particular injury.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Speaking of ambiguous, Nikola Mirotic’s status has improved as he was released from the hospital a few days ago and is just starting to eat again. The initial prognosis surrounding his appendectomy was that he would be back following the break but with his hematoma setback, the team hasn’t stated when he will return to action.

“He still hasn't done much physical activity, it's going to be about getting him back in shape,” Hoiberg said. “Which when you're really on a liquid diet for five days, it's about building the strength back up. That's what it's going to be about for Niko and hopefully that will start soon.”

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.