After second evaluation, surgery recommended for Carter

In keeping with the theme of this Bulls' season, the good news about Wendell Carter Jr.'s injured left thumb didn't last long.

When the Bulls arrived home from a winless road trip, they sent Carter to a hand specialist. The recommendation was surgery with a recovery time of 8 to 12 weeks.

Assuming the surgery happens, Carter could be finished for the season. One of the bright spots in a disappointing, injury-plagued season, Carter had started all 44 games until sitting out Thursday's loss in Denver. The No. 7 pick of last year's draft was averaging 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

The Bulls held a light practice Friday at the Advocate Center and coach Jim Boylen spoke to reporters before knowing the results of Carter's exam.

"If you look at it at this moment, we've lost two of our best defenders, in the Justin Holiday trade and Wendell Carter being hurt," Boylen said. "Somebody's going to have to step up. That's what we're preaching. Play those minutes with physicality. We need physicality. We're desperately seeking more physical play and maybe our most physical guy now is hurt."

Carter injured the thumb when he fell during the first half of Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He continued to play and finished the game. An MRI exam in Los Angeles the next day suggested a sprain. So even as he missed his first game of the season in Denver, Carter was relieved it wasn't worse.

"I was kind of scared, honestly, just that I wouldn't be out there for my team," Carter told reporters Thursday in Denver. "I'm glad it wasn't true, but it was definitely weighing on my mind that whole night."

Against the Nuggets, Boylen started Bobby Portis at center and used Robin Lopez as the backup. Two days earlier, Lopez didn't play at all against the Lakers with the belief he would either be traded soon or released after the Feb. 7 trade deadline.

The Bulls will be missing another of their better defenders Saturday against Miami because guard Shaq Harrison will take a few days off due to a lingering illness. Harrison did play briefly at the end of the loss in Denver.

"He's been struggling," Boylen said. "He never complains. He did everything he was supposed to do. He did his warmup, he went through shootaround (before the Denver game). He's not one of those dudes who's looking for a day off or a way out."

The Bulls never came close to winning a game on their five-game road trip and have now lost nine in a row. Boylen is trying to keep the message positive.

"I thought we played five good teams; two of the teams you could argue are the best teams in the league right now," he said. "We had competitive moments. We had moments when we could have played better.

"When's that breakthrough (going to happen)? I'm not sure. But it's never going to break through if we don't continue to work. It's never going to happen. I've been saying since Day 1, we've got to control the things we can control and we did that today. One foot in front of the other and move forward."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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