Doctors recommend Bulls' Wendell Carter undergo thumb surgery

CHICAGO -- Chicago-based hand specialists have recommended Bulls rookie Wendell Carter undergo surgery to repair a left thumb injury. If Carter opts to have the surgery, the recovery time is 8-12 weeks.

Carter sprained his thumb during a Jan. 15 game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Carter played the entire game with medical tape on his thumb. He underwent testing on Thursday that left both Carter and the Bulls optimistic that the injury was not serious. Carter even told reporters that he hoped to play in the Bulls' home game against the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Further testing Friday morning revealed a more grim diagnosis.

Carter's high-IQ play and defensive potential made him a rare bright spot for a Bulls team mired in a losing season. Chicago, which ranks 24th in defensive efficiency and 29th in point differential, has lost 10 games by 20 or more points and four games -- the most of any team in the league -- by 30 or more points. Carter was touted as one of the team's best defenders.

"At this moment, we've lost two of our best defenders in the Justin Holiday trade and Wendell Carter being hurt," coach Jim Boylen said. "Somebody is going to have to step up. We need physicality. We are desperately seeking more physical play. And maybe our most physical guy now is hurt."

Carter already missed Thursday's game against the Denver Nuggets. Bobby Portis took Carter's place in the starting lineup.

Carter's extended absence wouldn't change the organization's direction on trade talks involving Robin Lopez, a league source told ESPN. Lopez and his $14 million expiring contract will remain in the marketplace leading into the trade deadline.

Carter has averaged 10.3 points, 7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 blocks per game through 44 games.