Wendell Close to a Return, More Lonzo Talk, the Rockets-Bulls Finals that Never Was, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Wendell Close to a Return, More Lonzo Talk, the Rockets-Bulls Finals that Never Was, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

What was my favorite part of Valentine’s Day? The injury update on Wendell Carter Jr., of course (pls don’t tell my girlfriend)!

•    While things were trending in the right direction over the past few days, the Bulls surprised us with some very positive news on Sunday. Carter Jr. practiced fully for the first time since January 18th, and it appears his recovery from a severe quad contusion is way ahead of schedule. The big man was originally supposed to miss four weeks before being re-evaluated by the medical staff, but he has now made enough progress for the teams to upgrade him to questionable for tonight’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers.

•   The Bulls could not have asked for a better week for Carter Jr.’s possible return. Over the next four games, the Bulls will play two teams who make their money pounding the paint. The Pacers score the 3rd-highest percent of their buckets in the paint, and the Sacramento Kings (who the Bulls play on Saturday) score the 5th-highest. Chicago’s other two opponents this week include the Hornets and 76ers, who scoring the 12th-highest and 16th-highest percentage of their points in the paint, respectively. Without Carter Jr., the Bulls have allowed the 5th-highest opponent field goal percentage (62.7%) in the restricted area, and while the team still had their defensive issues with him on the floor, that clip at least sat at just 15th-highest (66.1%) over his first 14 games played. So, yeah, the Bulls need their best rim-protector back on the floor.

•   Not to mention, Carter Jr.’s offensive game had been headed in the right direction before his injury. The big man had scored seven-straight game in double figures averaging 3.0 offensive rebounds and 2.6 assists over that span. His usage rating sits at a career-high this season (18.6 percent), per Cleaning the Glass, as it is clear that head coach Billy Donovan perceives him as an important part of the Bulls offensive scheme, which is a role Daniel Gafford has failed to replicate.

•   Another layer has been added to the Lonzo Ball trade rumors.

•   I’ll be honest, I’m coming around more and more to the idea of trading for Ball. The cost isn’t going to be as high as many think unless Ball takes a pretty substantial leap over the next couple of weeks. Chicago’s savvy veterans are playing well, but it’s hard to say any align with the front office’s future vision for this team. Ball is a bit of a wild card, but at 23-years-old, he is probably worth a flyer if it were to only cost something like a vet player and a second-rounder. Would trading a player like Thaddeus Young and a couple of second-rounders be worth it for the Bulls? Probably. Is that the deal the Pelicans would want – let alone the best one they can get? Hard to say.

•   For what it’s worth, I think we also need to keep in mind that the Bulls interest in Ball could stretch past the trade deadline. He is headed toward restricted free agency this offseason, so they could technically make him an offer this summer and land him without giving up assets.

•   Vernon Maxwell had something interesting to say about Michael Jordan’s Bulls when he spoke with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson on the Scoop B Radio Podcast: “We would’ve beat ‘em, and I think I could’ve went seven, but I think it would’ve went six. We would’ve definitely beat ‘em. We used to beat them all the time. We beat ‘em at their place – We used to beat ‘em at the old Chicago Stadium, we beat ‘em at our place… ain’t nobody used to do THAT. We sweeped ‘em. Like Kenny [Smith] said, we was 8-2 against them, man. When they were winning all those championships those years, WE were the ones that were beating they ass!” Thoughts?

•   I’m not convinced, Vernon. While Jordan’s respect for Hakeem The Dream is well-documented, I just can’t pick against the GOAT in this imaginary NBA Finals. I do have no doubt the two would have matched up if Jordan stayed in the league those two years, and while the matchup would be a tough one, we all know Jordan would rise to the occasion. I have thought about this potential Finals plenty in the past, though, and I’m certainly bummed we never got to see it. Would have been a hell of a series.

•   Good read. Temple is one fascinating and inspirational dude.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.