Carter appears on track to play Saturday vs. Knicks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Bulls could use some players to come back from injuries, instead of losing guys all the time. Center Wendell Carter Jr. estimated there's an 80-90 percent chance he plays Saturday in New York.

    The Bulls could use some players to come back from injuries, instead of losing guys all the time. Center Wendell Carter Jr. estimated there's an 80-90 percent chance he plays Saturday in New York. Associated Press

  • The Bulls could use some players to come back from injuries, instead of losing guys all the time. Center Wendell Carter Jr. estimated there's an 80-90 percent chance he plays Saturday in New York.

    The Bulls could use some players to come back from injuries, instead of losing guys all the time. Center Wendell Carter Jr. estimated there's an 80-90 percent chance he plays Saturday in New York. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/27/2020 6:31 PM

When rookie center Daniel Gafford picked up two quick fouls against Oklahoma City's Steven Adams on Tuesday, Cristiano Felicio was called off the bench to jump into action.

Felicio ended up playing roughly 25 of the next 27 minutes of game time, since Gafford checked in briefly and picked up his third foul.

 

The Bulls' backup center logged a season-high 33 minutes in the 2-point loss.

Kudos to Felicio for not collapsing from exhaustion. But needless to say, the Bulls could use some reinforcements badly.

After Thursday's practice at the Advocate Center, Wendell Carter Jr. estimated there's an 80 to 90 percent chance he'll play Saturday when the Bulls visit New York. Carter has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain in Dallas on Jan. 6 and has missed 22 games.

"It's been pretty frustrating because I've been wanting to get back out there right after all-star break, but I knew it was going to be a process," Carter said. "So just getting my wind back, getting these plays back under my belt, getting these defensive coverages back down so when I get back out there, I'm helping the team instead of hurting."

There was more injury bad news Thursday. Coby White, coming off three straight 30-point games, tweaked his back during his usual pre-practice workout. So White did not practice, but coach Jim Boylen isn't ruling him out for Saturday.

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The Bulls also declared center Luke Kornet out for the season. Kornet suffered a sprained left ankle in practice last week and missed the past three games.

Further testing revealed a fracture of the fifth metatarsal. Kornet, who has been moving around on crutches since the injury, had been starting in place of Carter.

In addition to Carter, Boylen is optimistic Denzel Valentine will be ready to return on Saturday. He's missed the last seven games with a hamstring strain. Otto Porter, out since Nov. 6 with a broken foot, still isn't ready to return.

"I would think there would be some minute restrictions involved with possibly both of them, but at least Wendell," Boylen said. "We will update you with that as we go."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls brought Windy City players to the Advocate Center for a scrimmage on Wednesday, with Carter, Valentine and Gafford participating. Carter said they played five five-minute quarters and went full speed.

"I got winded real quickly," Carter said. "I think that was kind of expected. But you just push through it and get up and down the court. Get my shots and play some defense, stuff like that, that's all it is."

Carter's return should give the Bulls a nice boost. He was arguably the team's best two-way player before his injury. In other words, he was a positive on both ends of the floor and the Bulls don't have a lot of guys like that. Among players in the regular rotation, Carter leads the Bulls in net rating.

"I definitely wasn't moving as fast (in Wednesday's scrimmage) as I was before," he said. "But in terms of getting into a stance, moving, doing those type things, it felt fine."

The Bulls have 23 games left and their playoff chances are beyond long-shot level. But it's conceivable they could get three guys who started the season opener back in the next week or two, with Carter, Porter and Lauri Markkanen.

"Just setting the tone for next year," Carter said. "We still have an opportunity to make it to the playoffs. Our playoff hope isn't dead yet, so as a competitor that's what I'm looking forward to, trying to get to the playoffs. But making it to the playoffs or not, I'm just trying to set the tone for the Chicago Bulls that we're a great team when we're all healthy."

Both of those tasks seem overly optimistic. As of Thursday morning, the Bulls trailed eighth-place Orlando by 6½ games and their schedule to finish the season is brutal.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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