Shaq Harrison has just played the game of his season. In a 109-89 dismantling of the Pistons, the Bulls’ ‘next-man-up’ of the night did it all, scoring 15 points, snagging 11 rebounds and swiping three steals on a rather efficient 7-of-12 shooting. He was announced as the Bulls’ fifth starter just two hours before tip-off.
In the locker room after the game, Harrison was — unsurprisingly — all smiles. But emblazoned across the front of his bottom lip: a smear of blood.
To Harrison, it’s a badge of honor.
“This was the first play of the game,” he said, ever-congenial. “Welcome back.”
That’s the rare brand of attitude Harrison brings to the Bulls, and it takes only a brief spin around the locker room to see how much he is appreciated.
"Shaq's a dirty-work guy, and that first group needs it," head coach Jim Boylen said of what Harrison brought to the starting lineup.
“His defense is great, he always constantly puts pressure on guy[s],” Tomas Satoransky said. “We needed that energy.”
Energy is one thing, and Harrison certainly possesses that in droves — he likened himself to a “rabbit” on the court, chasing down loose balls, rebounds and transition opportunities. But to go from a spark-plug to a true impact player, there’s a deeper level of preparedness required.
If he hadn’t already, Harrison proved tonight that he’s the latter — or, at least, that he can be.
“Shaq’s a real pro, stays ready,” Boylen said. “He’s been working… It’s a credit to him. He’s a winning dude.”
“When you got other players that are playing in front of you, you can easily cry about it and complain,” Harrison said. “But I kept my head on straight and stayed the course, and everything worked out for me in the end.”
Against Detroit, Harrison logged more minutes (26) than he had all season to this point (23), and led the Bulls in plus-minus (+29), to boot.
“It’s easy to talk with him about how we want to play, and I feel like communicating with him is a very natural thing for me,” Satoransky said of getting Harrison up to speed.
On Harrison's ability to plug and play, even without a guaranteed role: “It says a lot,” Satoransky said. “And I think he just confirmed what I was thinking about him from last year, because with [the] Wizards, we played against them… He always put a lot of trouble defensively on us.”
The typical highlight-reel plays were there, as well, but when asked his favorite play of the night, Harrison cited his lone three-pointer (he was 1-for-2 from deep on the night), which gave the Bulls a 17-6 lead in the first quarter.
“That was my favorite one of the day,” he said. “Cause I worked so hard on it in the offseason.”
And the thing he’s most proud of?
“Most of all, I take pride in the win. That’s the main goal, and that’s what we got tonight.”
With starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. and his understudy Chandler Hutchison both injured and without concrete timetables for return, Harrison will likely see more opportunities to contribute to that main goal, moving forward. Boylen said he sees no reason to switch the current starting unit up, especially with a back-to-back coming this weekend.
Harrison, for his part, remains focused on the things he can control. The rest will work itself out later.
“Toughness and a dog mentality,” he said, on what he brings. “I’m always gonna be able to play 100 percent every single night. Whether my shot falling or it’s not falling, you’re gonna get 100 percent out of me."
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