Not even three weeks removed from the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic were matched up after their blockbuster swap of starting centers.
But it was the team that opted for a rebuild, as opposed to winning now, that came out on top on Wednesday.
Orlando put away Chicago handily, 115-106, earning their third win since the trade deadline.
For the Bulls, Wednesday’s loss marked the fourth in a row, and dropped them to 10 games below .500.
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Before the Game
Before the matchup, Carter Jr. took the mature route when speaking on his reunion with the Bulls.
The 21-year old told reporters (via NBC Sports) on Monday that he considered the matchup against Chicago just another game:
I’m gonna approach it as another game. With it being recent, yeah I’m going to have a certain chip on my shoulder. I’m a competitor. I’m gonna just play my game. Like I said before, help my team win.
As far as his fit in Orlando, Carter Jr. feels right at home:
I’m pretty comfortable. Still trying to figure out my teammates, what they like to do, how they like to play, because I’m all about helping my teammates get shots…Just trying to do what got me into this league. Be a great defender, anchor our defense. Be a great rebounder, and that’s something I can improve on. With this team, I just want to help this team win.
He did that on Wednesday, with his 19 points-12 rebound double-double performance. Carter Jr. helped to put the Bulls into a hole deeper than they had seen this season when he was on the roster.
Whether he acknowledged it or not, that’s got to be a good feeling.
After a Big Win
In what may be characteristic at this point, Carter Jr. didn’t take the opportunity to rag on the Chicago Bulls after playing a big part in their fourth-straight loss.
Still, the 21-year old told reporters after the game (via NBC Sports) that Wednesday night’s win definitely meant a lot, and he’s focused on winning more now in Orlando:
It meant a lot. Coming back to a team you just got traded from. It’s kind of for all games, you want to go out there, especially being a new player on the team, you want to make an impact and influence winning. And tonight I think I did a great job of helping my team win.
Carter Jr. left the Bulls considered somewhat of a project. But with the Magic, he’s looked born again. He’s averaging 14 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks/steals per game.
When asked about the change of scenery, Carter Jr. says it definitely helped to kick start his play:
Those last couple games I was in Chicago were definitely tough for me, just from an individual standpoint. And then coming to Orlando, you know, kind of in a rebuild mode for them, and just to come in and just impact winning. I think I’ve done that so far, and now it’s about consistency.
Orlando hasn’t won much since the trade deadline, but they’ve won more than Chicago. Maybe for now, that’s enough for Carter Jr., who’s harboring no ill-will to his former team:
It was good seeing everybody. It was a bittersweet moment for sure. I got a lot of great memories with the Bulls team, the Bulls’ coaching staff. But at the same time I understand it’s a business. So you know we can laugh and giggle all before the game, but once the game starts it’s go time.
In other words, it ain’t “show friends”, it’s show business.