The wait is finally over.
With the Bulls in desperate need of consistent bench help, guard Michael Carter-Williams returned to the lineup Monday after missing 27 games with left knee and wrist injuries.
The Bulls acquired Carter-Williams from Milwaukee in a trade for Tony Snell late in preseason. He made some decent contributions during the first week of the regular season, then took a hard fall in the Oct. 31 game at Brooklyn and it's been a long recovery.
Carter-Williams suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and a sprained left wrist. The knee healed relatively quickly, but there was a setback with the wrist, and Carter-Williams had to wear a cast for a few weeks, which delayed his return. Since he's right-handed and the knee has been healed for a while, Carter-Williams was able to work out aggressively in recent days.
"He's in a pretty good spot from a conditioning standpoint, now we just have to get him back in game shape and get his timing going," coach Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's contest.
The Bulls' bench has been a weak spot all season. Carter-Williams is a good defender and is in his fourth NBA season, so the hope is he'll be a solid contributor.
"The big thing with Michael we've really missed is he's a very versatile defensive player," Hoiberg said. "Really, after Jimmy (Butler), he's probably our second-most effective perimeter defender and he can guard three positions because of his size.
"He's another guy that can get into the paint and make plays for our team. So I'm excited about that, the pace he can bring our team as well. I thought he did a really nice job before he got hurt, when he was starting to get more comfortable with everything we were doing."
McDermott sidelined again:
While Michael Carter-Williams returned Monday, Doug McDermott went back on the shelf with a shin injury. His status is day-to-day.
McDermott had played in nine straight games after missing 11 with a concussion. He scored in double figures for three straight games before finishing with 5 points on Sunday in San Antonio.
"It's unfortunate. Doug, you can really tell has been getting more comfortable as we've been going on, he's shooting the ball with more confidence," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We'll miss him. We missed him when he was out with a concussion. We'll miss him again tonight."
Paxson looks ahead:
Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson made a rare radio appearance on Christmas morning on WSCR 670-AM. One question he was asked is whether Dwyane Wade can help recruit a quality free agent or two next summer.
"You can't count on that," Paxson said. "I guess in your dreams you hope something like that might happen, but if you're counting on that, to me, that's not a plan. You're just kind of hoping and wishing.
"That wasn't a consideration. We looked at it as Dwyane was available in the short term, we hadn't done anything to get up high in last year's draft or anything to try to get really young and rebuild and we made that choice. He's been great. I think he's been a real positive for this organization."