Chicago Bulls' Carter returns from injury ahead of schedule

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls' Wendell Carter Jr. dunks in front of Washington Wizards' Thomas Bryant during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Washington. (Rob Carr/Pool Photo via AP)

    Chicago Bulls' Wendell Carter Jr. dunks in front of Washington Wizards' Thomas Bryant during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Washington. (Rob Carr/Pool Photo via AP)

 
 
Updated 2/15/2021 5:57 PM

Bulls coach Billy Donovan made it official, center Wendell Carter Jr. will return to action Monday at Indiana after missing 11 games with a right-quad contusion.

It's a little bit sooner than expected. Carter suffered the injury in practice Jan. 20 and, after an MRI exam a few days later, the team announced he would be reevaluated in a month. The Bulls went 4-7 in the games Carter missed.

 

"Guys are excited and happy that he's back," Donovan said before the game. "I just don't want our team to expect him to be where he was before he got injured. This is going to take a little bit of time. We've got to slowly get him back to where he was.

"It's good to have him back. I'm happy to have him back. Again, we've got to compete and play well together as a team. It can't be a situation where it's, 'OK, Wendell is back, everything is going to be fine.' I don't think that can be the case at all."

It quickly became obvious backup Daniel Gafford isn't suited for the starting job at in his second professional season. He often got a quick hook at the start of games.

Donovan was asked what the Bulls missed most without Carter.

"I felt like he was getting a little bit more comfortable offensively in that role as a facilitator." he said. "I think he was getting back to offensive rebounding. Certainly his length and size at the basket helps us defensively; there's been times we've been small and haven't had great rim protection. He's always been a pretty good rim protector with his size and length in the lane and just his athleticism.

"Yeah, we missed his screening. I always say this, when you miss out on a player that's certainly a vital and important role, it impacts your team. He looked fine (Sunday) moving and cutting and playing, there were no issues there. But I do think it's going to take him some to get his rhythm, his timing, his conditioning back, and hopefully that'll happen sooner rather than later."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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