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Bulls’ Carter could be back as soon as Saturday after MRI

Rookie didn’t break thumb

Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. (right) could be back in the lineup as soon as Saturday after an MRI revealed he did not break his thumb.
Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. (right) could be back in the lineup as soon as Saturday after an MRI revealed he did not break his thumb.

When Wendell Carter Jr. left the
Staples Center after the Bulls’ loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, an X-ray led him to believe he had suffered a fractured left thumb.

No wonder he wore a smile Thursday morning at the Pepsi Center, even though he also wore a brace on the sprained thumb that sidelined him Thursday night against the Nuggets.

“It went from [missing] 6 to 8 weeks to now day-to-day,” Carter said. “So that’s definitely a relief for sure.”

It’s also a relief for the Bulls, who started Bobby Portis in Carter’s place. Wednesday’s MRI exam showed Carter’s ligament is largely intact, and the rookie center even tested it at the morning shootaround. That shows how close he is to playing.

“I’m looking at Saturday for sure,” Carter said about playing versus the Heat at the United Center. “Just get in some really good treatment these next couple days, and I should be fine.”

Carter said adrenaline helped him finish the Lakers game after he
suffered the injury in the first half when he tripped over Tyson

“When it happened, it was, ‘Oh, I just jammed my thumb, I’ll be fine,’” Carter said. “As the game went on, it stiffened up a little bit and it started swelling up and hurting really bad where I couldn’t even make a fist. After the game, it swelled up really, really bad and started hurting.

“I was kind of scared, honestly, that I wouldn’t be out there for my team. It looked bad in terms of so many people have gotten injured this year, and it would be another one. I’m glad it wasn’t true, but it was definitely weighing on my mind that whole night.”

That the prospect of being out for so long scared Carter is also why he remains upbeat about the rest of his rookie season. He cares.

And according to him, so do his teammates, even amid an eight-game losing streak.

“We’re all competitors,” Carter said. “We don’t want to lose, but I feel like most of us get the bigger picture. We’re trying to build something here, and during the build, we don’t want to lose, of course, but we’re going to get things right.

“A lot of these games I feel like we could have won. There were a couple possessions where we didn’t take ownership of what we were supposed to do, but I feel like we’re learning every day by watching film, practicing and playing.”

Carter missed his first game Thursday. The 19-year-old is averaging 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in his rookie season.

“It’s definitely a long season,” he said. “We’re pretty much done with a college season, and we’re halfway through. So it’s definitely taken a wear on my body. But this is what I’ve been dreaming to do all my life. So I would rather be doing this than anything else.”

Nuggets 135, Bulls 105: Chicago held a slim 30-28 lead after the first quarter on the road, but was outscored 33-18 in the second en route to a loss at the Pepsi Center.

Lauri Markkanen recorded a double double with 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls.

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