With the Bulls up 26 points in the waning minutes of a dismantling of the Thunder on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, coach Fred Hoiberg emptied his bench.
In went Bobby Portis.
In went Isaiah Canaan.
In went Paul Zipser.
Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams continued to sit.
Finally, almost as an after-thought, Hoiberg gave the nod to Carter-Williams and the guard was the last of the Bulls to appear during the 128-100 victory.
Since being acquired in an Oct. 17 trade with the Bucks for Tony Snell, Carter-Williams has gone from a starter to Hoiberg’s last option.
“The big thing for (Carter-Williams) similar to what has happened to some of the other guys who have been out of the rotation is it starts with practice,” Hoiberg said.
“You have to go out with great energy every day. When the opportunity comes, take advantage. He has done a good job. He’s getting extra work in (and) he’s keeping himself prepared.”
Carter-Williams, who missed nearly two months with knee and wrist injuries shortly after joining the Bulls, isn’t sulking as he bides his time. Hoiberg said Carter-Williams could get a shot sometime during the current trip that continues against the Rockets on Friday night.
“I just have to stay positive and stay together with the team,” Carter-Williams said. “I read what (Hoiberg) said and he said I’ve been doing the right things with playing hard and getting in extra work. I have to continue (that).”
That doesn’t mean Carter-Williams is happy with the situation.
“Believe me, I get pretty pissed off as anybody would,” he said. “But it’s only because I want to play and that’s just the competitive side of me. But I can’t be pissed off in front of the team. I can go home and be mad, but I have to stay upbeat and stay positive for my team and do anything I can to help them win.”
Complicating matters for Carter-Williams is that the third-year pro who is averaging 7.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game will be a restricted free agent after the season and sitting on the bench isn’t conducive to showcasing his talents.
“It’s the situation I’m in,” Carter-Williams, 25, said. “I could be in a lot worse situations in my life so I’m grateful to be here. I’m glad to be in this league.”
It is a situation Hoiberg can appreciate because he was a guard who had little stability during this 10-year playing career with the Pacers, Bulls and Timberwolves.
“I understand it as well as anyone because I lived that life,” Hoiberg said. “I was pretty much a one-year contract guy. My last contract (was) a two-year deal.
“I understand being in and out of the rotation, I understand going from starting to not playing (and) I understand going from not playing to starting. It’s part of this business. You have to accept what’s given to you and keep yourself prepared.”
Carter-Williams realizes that being benched can affect his next contract but said, “I’m at a point in my life where I have to just worry about my day to day. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”
Whatever happens, Carter-Williams said he isn’t ruling out returning to the Bulls.
“I love Chicago, I love the coaches here and I love the guys here,” he said. “It definitely would be something I would want to do. Obviously, it would have to be the right situation for me.
“I have nothing against Chicago, nothing against the coaches. I’m going through a little bit of sitting down. It sucks but it is what it is. Coach sees something and for us to win we have to trust him.”