Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
ATLANTA --- If you're a Chicago Bulls fan who's surprised by how little Jevon Carter is playing this season, you're not alone.
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"Am I surprised? Yes," Carter said Monday following the team's morning shootaround at State Farm Arena. "I don't know, man. I just want to play ball. Whenever my name is called, I'll be ready."
Carter said this matter-of-factly, not maliciously. Every game, he's one of the first players to greet teammates as they come off the court or to stand and clap after a positive play. He continues to work, putting in his after-practice time against the player development coaches for the low-minute players or getting up extra shots, like he did Monday.
"I want to see my teammates do well," Carter said. "Just because I'm not playing, it ain't got nothing to do with them. It's all love."
But as the main offseason addition, a player who agreed to a three-year, $19.5 million deal in the opening seconds of free agency, his limited role has been surprising. There even was offseason speculation that Ayo Dosunmu would be forced to sign elsewhere because of the crowded guard picture, particularly since Coby White re-signed and Carter verbally agreed to terms immediately as free agency began while Dosunmu's situation took weeks to resolve.
Now, Carter is coming off a "Did Not Play---Coach's Decision" designation in Orlando, his third this season, and is averaging 13.6 minutes after averaging 22.3 minutes over 81 games for the 58-win Bucks last season.
"The best of my career," Carter said of last season. "I played the most. Playing with (Giannis Antetokounmpo) was definitely a lot of fun. He draws a lot of attention so the game was real easy for me."
Alex Caruso missing Monday's game with a left toe contusion opened opportunity for Carter.
Like most Bulls this season, Carter got off to a slow start shooting and is connecting at 37 percent, including 33.5 percent from 3-point range. He's averaging 5.1 points after averaging 8 points on 42.1 percent 3-point shooting last season.
Asked what he feels he would bring if given more opportunity, Carter detailed the specific points that his signing seemed to address.
"Just what I do---picking up fullcourt, defending, playing fast, making open shots and just trying to make the game easier for my teammates," Carter said.
White is enjoying a breakout season. And Dosunmu once again has become a rotational mainstay with his defensive length and ability to get downhill and attack the rim offensively.
But with Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams sidelined, Carter's limited role stands out even more glaringly. When Carter didn't play against Orlando, coach Billy Donovan cited the Magic's length as the reason he opted for Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips.
Still, the Bulls knew Carter stood 6 feet, 1 inches when they signed him.
"We need Jevon to shoot when he has opportunities to. I think that helps our team and is what he's really elite at," Donovan said. "I think the other part of it is his ability to pick up fullcourt. But to be honest, there have been some situations where he has gotten into the rotation in the first half but the way the game has gone, in the second half the situations have gotten a little bit smaller and I've gone with other guys.
"The thing I respect about him---like any one of these guys, they always want to be playing---is he always keeps himself ready. Some of it has really just been more my decision in those second halfs. But outside the last game, for the most part he's been in in the first half. It's just the second half, whether it's playing bigger, it has bled into some of his minutes there."
Carter has a player option on the final season of his deal and admitted he has let his mind wander about his future if his role doesn't increase. Asked if he has approached Donovan or anybody else on the staff about his situation, Carter took the high road.
"They don't really have too much to say about it," Carter said. "It's just the NBA. That's how it goes. All I can do is keep working and be ready for whenever my name is called. And that's what I'm going to do."
Donovan said he talks to Carter "all the time" and that the coach has learned Carter prefers a direct approach. Donovan said he told Carter before the Orlando game that he probably wasn't going to play.
"I think he wants to figure out ways where he can find more opportunities to shoot," Donovan said. "He has been great to work with. He's all about the team."
Throughout it all, Carter is trying to focus on the positives. Playing at home has allowed him to increase the presence of his Treadmill Mentality foundation. And he remains humbled by being able to wear the jersey of the team he cheered for as a kid growing up in Maywood.
"I get to see my family every home game," Carter said. "When I'm not working, I get to see and be around them in my everyday life. So that's fun."
Not playing much isn't fun. But Carter will keep working.