Denzel Valentine hoping to stand out in camp filled with competition


Denzel Valentine hoping to stand out in camp filled with competition

In this season of whatever this will be for the Bulls, the only certainty is the uncertainty in which they will march toward the bottom of the standings in hopes of obtaining a high lottery pick.

Last year, only one starting spot was up for grabs and the Bulls did everything they could to hand it to Nikola Mirotic, but it’s the opposite this time around as only one spot seems to be nailed down in the form of Robin Lopez at center.

So the rotation spots and starting positions will be determined by who plays best, which should lead to some intriguing personnel battles in practices and in the preseason.

The spirit of competition was initiated by Bulls Executive Vice-President John Paxson and reiterated by head coach Fred Hoiberg, who after games in his first two years often lamented lackluster efforts against lesser opponents.

One would think that shouldn’t be the case this season.

“I love their effort. I think our guys are out there competing at a very high level,” Hoiberg said. “We're making mistakes, there's no doubt about that. Most teams at this stage are, especially young teams. The important part is we've gotten better each day.”

Hoiberg said the turnovers have been an early issue but that’s to be expected in the first week of camp, especially with Hoiberg wanting to increase possessions and play faster.

“It’s really just play as hard as you can when you’re out there,” second-year guard Denzel Valentine said. “We’re young. With youth, there’s a lot of energy. We should be one of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA. If we play hard and play the right way, we have enough talent and we’re deep enough.”

Speaking of the simple plays as opposed to making the spectacular ones, the vision of Valentine trying to squeeze passes into rapidly-closing windows was a frequent occurrence in his rookie year last season.

After playing with the ball throughout his college career at Michigan State, he didn’t have many opportunities with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo rightly making most of the decisions.

So when he did get his chances, he often played too fast but not quick enough to make the flashy look-away passes he was accustomed to pulling off. It led to an uneven rookie season and left him as a forgotten man of sorts when the Bulls made their draft-night trade to acquire Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.

“There wasn’t need for me to try to playmake. My role last year was pretty much be a spot-up shooter and be efficient when I get the ball,” Valentine said. “This year, my role is going to increase. I’m going to be able to make more plays and do things I’m comfortable doing. It’ll be better.”

In theory he has a leg up on Dunn, if he’s in the running to play the point. He’s had a year to be in Hoiberg’s offensive system and should know the terminology and concepts better than any other perimeter player.

Even though his ankle surgery over the summer had a longer recovery time than he expected, leading to an uneven showing at Summer League, he has plenty of opportunity to show where he fits in the present and future of the franchise.

He’s shown he’s a capable shooter, shooting 35 percent from 3 and 38 after the All-Star break when his minutes doubled.

“(I’m) really just slowing down, getting more comfortable playing at pro speed, and my shooting of course,” he said. “Defensively, I want to be able to stay on the floor at all times and be able to guard 1-4. Defensively is a big improvement.”

His lack of athleticism certainly hurts him defensively, a place where Dunn is expected to excel, along with Jerian Grant still being in the mix. But he knows he’ll have his chances and presumably, Hoiberg will have no problem making this competition a meritocracy as opposed to fulfilling any preconceived agenda.

“There’s definitely opportunity knocking on the door,” Valentine said. “I just put in the back of my mind that no matter happens, I’m going to stay me, put in the work. Since the trade happened and more opportunity is here, I have to grow up a little faster now. I’m spending more time in the gym, spending more time watching film, taking it more serious with my body.”

As for starting or coming off the bench, Valentine said: “This year, I’m just going to have an open mind. If I start, I start. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m going to try to do what I do and keep progressing.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Vincent Goodwill look past the Bulls loss to the Knicks and debate if free agents Isaiah Thomas or Jabari Parker be a good fit on the Bulls. Plus why Fred Hoiberg is in the midst of his best coaching in his Bulls tenure. Kendall also explains why he’s not convinced that Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine can coexist on the court together. And is Collin Sexton the right or wrong player for the team come draft time? Plus the debate between KG and Vincent on IF the Bulls would have won 8 straight titles had Jordan not retired.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Bulls make history for 3-point futility in loss to Knicks


Bulls make history for 3-point futility in loss to Knicks

It was a bad night for the Bulls from beyond the arc. That's putting it lightly, seeing as it was perhaps their worst 3-point performance under Hoiberg and, for volume's sake, one of the worst in NBA history.

Let's try to break it down with the numbers, beginning with the raw ones: The Bulls shot 3 of 30 (10%) from 3-point range in their 110-92 loss to the Knicks. Those three makes all came from bench players (Bobby Portis, Noah Vonleh, Antonio Blakeney). Their starters were an incredible 0-for-19 from beyond the arc. The reserves looked like the Rockets in comparison, going a blistering 3-for-11.

The Bulls began the game missing their first eight 3-point attempts in the first quarter, then another to begin the second quarter. Vonleh broke the skid with a triple, making the Bulls 1-for-10. The Bulls missed their next two triples before Portis splashed home his only deep make of the night. The Bulls were then 2-for-13. They finished the second quarter 2-for-12, and the first half 2-for-20.

They somehow managed to attempt just two 3-pointers in the third quarter, both misses. Then they missed their first two attempts of the fourth quarter before Blakeney's triple with 8:00 left in the fourth quarter. It'd be the last triple the Bulls made - they missed their final five attempts.

OK, got that all? It wasn't pretty. Here's how not pretty it was, dating back to 1983-84 (major shoutout to Basketball Reference for having these stats available):

-- Prior to tonight, only three teams in NBA history had attempted 30 or more 3-pointers and made less than 10 percent of them. The Bulls are now the fourth.

1. 2016 Rockets: 3 of 35 (8.6%)
2. 2017 Nets: 3 of 33 (9.1%)
3. 2018 Suns: 3 of 32 (9.4%)
4. 2018 Bulls: 3 of 30 (10.0%)

-- The 10% shooting from 3 was the second worst performance from deep under Hoiberg.

1. 2016 vs. Warriors: 1 of 20 (5%)
2. 2018 at Knicks: 3 of 30 (10%)
3. 2016 vs. Heat: 1 of 8 (12.5%)
4. 2016 at Pistons: 2 of 15 (13.3%)

And to put it all in perspective, the Bulls' 3 of 30 shooting from deep was nearly twice as bad as Pistons center Andre Drummond's career 3-point field goal percentage: 5 of 26 (19.2%).

Not great, Bob. But for the tanking crowd, it was a helluva night.