The conditioning, while decent because his left knee healed weeks ago, needs more game action to fully form. The timing will take some time too.
But the most important moment in Michael Carter-Williams‘ recovery came when he got cleared for contact a week ago and started playing 3-on-3 and 4-on-4.
“I’ve taken a few whacks in my wrist,” Carter-Williams said. “So I’m good.”
The Bulls should be feeling similarly after Carter-Williams played 19 minutes with one point, five rebounds, two assists and some much-needed defensive energy in his first action since Oct. 31. That’s when Carter-Williams suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and a sprained left wrist, which produced a bone chip.
Acquired from the Bucks for Tony Snell on Oct. 17, Carter-Williams played well in the 2 1/2 games he appeared in before getting hurt in Brooklyn. And though the 6-foot-6 guard fell from rookie of the year with the 76ers in 2014 to out of the rotation with the Bucks last season, his strengths project to fill voids for the Bulls’ bench.
“He’s a very versatile defensive player,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He can get into the paint and make plays. Really after Jimmy (Butler), he’s probably our second-most effective perimeter defender. And he can guard three positions because of his size. So I’m excited about that and the pace he can bring.”
Carter-Williams said he has been working with assistant coaches to stay familiar with and review the team’s offensive and defensive sets. Now, he just wants to play.
“We’ve taken a couple losses so I’m just trying to bring some energy,” Carter-Williams said. “It’s always great when a guy is out and comes back and is able to positively affect the team just with his energy. I feel like that brings everybody’s spirits up. I’m going to try to take that lead and be positive.”
Back-to-back at it: Dwyane Wade played in his fifth set of back-to-back games on Monday, logging 33 minutes. Wade has rested twice in the second of such games this season.
“For what he’s been through in his career and the amount of miles he has on his legs, I think he’s in a pretty good spot right now,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, we need to continue to try to keep him fresh and have an open dialogue and when he’s not feeling right, we have to make that decision.”
Monday was by far Wade’s best performance on zero days rest this season. He came into the game averaging 12 points on 30.2 percent shooting in his previous four such games, but he led the Bulls with 21 against the Pacers. He is averaging 30.8 minutes overall, the second-fewest of his 14-year career behind last season’s 30.5.
Layups: The Bulls’ fourth-quarter struggles have been well documented. So it shouldn’t surprise that they have outscored their opponents in every quarter but the final one. … Butler’s 19 points Sunday in San Antonio snapped his streak of 12 straight road games with 20 or more.