Carter Wants To Lead -- Will Any Bulls Listen?

“We separate a little too much,” Wendell Carter Jr. says.

Cody Westerlund
November 17, 2018 - 10:58 pm
Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) – In the aftermath of the Bulls’ third embarrassing loss in four nights, Wendell Carter Jr. assessed late Saturday night exactly what sort of weight his own words carry as a rookie who’s just 17 games into his career.

Carter believes he has identified some of the Bulls’ troubles. He wants to take ownership for his role in them while communicating with others where else it all went wrong. All of 19 years old, Carter just isn’t sure whether it’s his place to speak out loudly yet.

“We separate a little too much, especially when times get hard,” Carter said after Chicago fell 122-83 to Toronto at the United Center. “No matter how old I am, I feel like that’s a simple fix for me. I try to step up as that leadership role, try to pull everybody together, but it’s hard at times, for sure.”

Carter’s comments come amid an utterly dreary stretch of basketball for the Bulls, who are setting records of futility on a regular basis amid a 4-13 start. On Friday, the Bulls were outscored 46-17 in the third quarter of a road loss to the Bucks, with that 29-point margin matching the worst in franchise history for a single quarter.

On Saturday, their 39-point margin of defeat marked the fourth-worst home loss in franchise history. When it was mercifully over, it wasn’t the score that bothered Carter as much as the lack of intensity that the Bulls displayed in allowing the game to spiral.

“We got to do something,” Carter said. “Don’t quit. Play as hard as you can until the last second. I feel like that’s what makes you a true basketball player – not giving up. No matter what the score is, just play as hard as you can.”

Afterward, coach Fred Hoiberg reiterated the need for the Bulls to “stay together” amid these trying times, which on this night included playing without leading scorer Zach LaVine (illness) as well as four other key rotation members due to injury. Without them, the Bulls shot a dismal 34.9 percent and committed 22 turnovers.

A state champion in high school who was a key part of an Elite Eight team in his lone year at Duke, Carter isn’t accustomed to losing. As it continues to occur, he doesn’t believe the Bulls’ tendency to separate stems from a place of selfishness but rather a lack of on-court continuity.

“I feel like it's not really by choice why we're separating,” said Carter, who struggled in recording eight points on 2-of-8 shooting. “It's just like people got different things on their mind at certain times of the game. So it's kind of hard for us to come together in certain moments. I feel like that's something we can just work on. It's not that hard. It's not rocket science.

“People are committed to the team effort. It's more so pointing fingers at themselves, people putting their own heads down, blaming themselves. I feel like the beauty of this game is there's another play in a matter of seconds. We just got to move on and try to make a better play the next time down the court.”

Carter indicated he wants to be judged harshly, without the caveat referencing that he’s a 19-year-old rookie. Of course, it’s that designation that's simultaneously causing Carter to wonder how vocal he should be at this juncture. Given his on-court and off-court acumen and disposition, Carter figures to blossom into a leader in time. When that will be is anyone’s guess.

Because after all, you’re only a leader if others listen.

“It’s definitely difficult,” Carter said. “I don’t want to make any excuse with me being a rookie, but it is a (weird) place for a rookie. I can’t just come in and tell players, tell my teammates how I feel or what I think should be done or anything like that. Honestly, it should be the other way around, where I should be listening to them, letting them tell me what to do. But besides all that, I’m not using that (rookie status) as an excuse. I feel like I take ownership of what I do on the court, what I do wrong, I take complete ownership of it. It’s not about making mistakes. I can figure out things on the fly.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.