Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. get closer to a return to the Bulls' lineup


Wendell Carter Jr talks with Jim Boylen after Bulls’ practice at the Advocate Center on February 18th.

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CHICAGO – On Friday, he made it clear that his intention was to be back on the court for the Bulls six days later.

That was at the media day for the NBA’s Rising Stars game, when Wendell Carter Jr. said that the first game after the All-Star break would mark his return to the lineup for the first time since January 6th, when he severely sprained his ankle.

Now two days away from that contest against the Hornets, Carter is hopeful to return to the Bulls’ lineup, but he’s not quite as certain as he was before.

“It will just depend on the coaching staff, depending on how I feeling come game time,” said Carter when asked if he’d return against the Hornets. “Of course I want to play Thursday but I want to do what’s best for the team.”

Right now they are hoping for some quick recoveries as they approach their final 27 games of the regular season. While they may still hold out hope for a playoff berth, sitting five games out of the last spot in the Eastern Conference, a key for the Bulls is to see just what they might have with this particular group moving forward in building their team.

That’s been nearly impossible to see with the entire collective since injuries have been rampant since the start of the season, especially lately. Carter, Otto Porter Jr., Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen are all out of the lineup, leaving it hard to see what this particular Bulls’ team exactly is moving forward.

Carter figures to be the first to return, and that’s a good thing for the team considering his performance early in the season. He’s averaging 11.7 points and 9.9 rebounds a contest in a strong second season as he’s looking to continue his development in the NBA after the Bulls took him seventh in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“I feel like I didn’t lose any of my fitness. My stamina might not be where it was before I got injured, but it won’t be hard to pick up where I left off.,” said Carter, but the interesting question comes with Porter.

He’s been out with a foot injury since November 6th, playing in only nine games, averaging 11.2 points and 3.4 rebounds a contest. It’s a bad blow for Porter and the Bulls, who were hoping for a lot from him after acquiring him from the Wizards at the 2019 trade deadline and taking on a good portion of his four-year, $106.5 million contract.

“It’s been the longest I’ve been out ever. So it’s definitely something I don’t want to go through again,” said Porter of his time out of the lineup.  “But my coaching staff, my teammates, they kept me positive. This organization kept me positive, so they helped me get back, take my time getting back and getting healthy.”

Porter along with Carter took a step toward doing that as each was on the floor at the Bulls’ first practice after the All-Star break on Tuesday at the Advocate Center. While anxious to get back in the lineup, the forward is making sure that he’s fully healthy before getting into a game.

“That’s why we do want to be 100 percent when we do come back so we can get back in the flow of things, get back out there with our teammates,” said Porter, who is one of a few trying to do so for the Bulls as the second half begins.


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