Bulls

Denzel Valentine trying to take advantage of long awaited opportunity

Denzel Valentine trying to take advantage of long awaited opportunity

During the fourth quarter of Monday night’s road victory over the Kings, coach Jim Boylen called timeout. A double-digit lead had shrunk to single digits. The Bulls have blown similar games before during this season.

As Boylen huddled with his assistant coaches before addressing the players, Denzel Valentine approached the five currently in the game who were sitting on the bench. Even from 15 feet away, it was easy to spot Valentine’s passion and positivity.

“I was just trying to keep us up,” Valentine said late Monday in the postgame locker room. “They were going on a run and I kept saying, ‘We’re good. It’s cool.’ Sometimes when adversity hits us, we struggle. Having that ability to be positive is huge.”

Valentine has natural leadership qualities. Management cited them upon drafting the Michigan State product in 2016.

But Valentine knows as well as anyone a simple truth of sports.

“When you’re playing, your leadership can have more impact. When you’re not playing, you can say the same stuff but you’re not playing,” he said. “When you’re competing, your energy is up. You’re positive. It just naturally comes out of me when I’m playing.”

Valentine finally is.

It may not always be big minutes. It may not be every game, although Valentine has appeared in four straight and logged double-digit minutes in three.

But it’s something. And for a proud competitor who recently found himself behind Shaq Harrison even with Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison sidelined and the Bulls struggling to shoot from 3-point range, that’s better than nothing.

“It’s been cool,” Valentine said. “It definitely feels good to be playing again and competing again. I’m just loving it.”

Valentine said he leaned on his family, agent Austin Brown and his internal confidence to keep him going through his period of inactivity that he knows may come again. In seven games, he’s averaging 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 7.7 minutes and shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range.

“I’m always going to believe in myself no matter what,” Valentine said. “Whether I play or not, that’s not in my control. I know what I can do. It’s all about the right opportunity. When I get the opportunity, I’m going to make the most of it.”

Against the Kings, Valentine beat the shot clock with a difficult 3-pointer from a tough angle in the corner and followed that with a nifty assist in transition to Daniel Gafford in the third quarter. He also isolated and shot an airball on a 3-pointer as the quarter ended.

But like his season, Valentine persevered. He finished with six points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist in just shy of 12 minutes.

“At the end of the day, I’m blessed to be in the NBA. I’m living my dream job,” Valentine said. “So many people came up to me and told me I’d get an opportunity. And here it is.”

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bulls make moves as they hire Arturas Karnisovas as new VP of basketball operations

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bulls make moves as they hire Arturas Karnisovas as new VP of basketball operations

KC Johnson, Jason Goff, and Jamal Collier join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - Arturas Karnisovas is the Bulls' new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. The guys react to the hire that has been lauded throughout the basketball world.

7:30 - The Bulls get criticized for not interviewing any African-American candidates. 

11:00- Will Jim Boylen still be the head coach when the season resumes?

13:30- How much closer are the Bulls to being contenders with this hire?

16:00- Denver sports columnist Paul Klee from the Gazette joins Kap. He talks about Karnisovas' background and discusses why he thinks the Bulls' new Executive VP will be a big success in Chicago.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Former Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas 'had his eyes' on Bulls job

Former Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas 'had his eyes' on Bulls job

The Bulls made a huge splash late Wednesday night when it was reported that they were in the midst of negotiations to make Arturas Karnisovas the new Bulls head of basketball operations. Bulls fans have had mostly positive reactions to the news and as we wait for further updates from the NBA as to the status of the league, we are finding out more and more about the intriguing background of Karnisovas. 

On Thursday's Sports Talk Live, The Gazette Denver sports columnist Paul Klee was on with David Kaplan to help give Chicagoans a better idea of what to expect with Karnisovas.

Klee started off by acknowledging that the Bulls made a great move and immediately touted Karnisovas' ability to maintain relationships. "His strengths are his eye for talent and his networking abilities, everybody he knows in the game, not only here but in Europe. This is an icon in Lithuania that's managed to get the [Denver] Nuggets back from the ashes."

Indeed Karnisovas has been a part of the Nuggets steady rise from overachieving team to a consistent force in a particularly stacked Western Conference.

RELATED: 5 key moves the Nuggets made during Arturas Karnisovas' tenure

There has been much discussion among league sources about the potential of a restructured Chicago front office, something K.C. Johnson and Tom Haberstroh touched on in their most recent piece. In that story, a rival executive is quoted saying, “It’s not a good job...it’s a great job," in reference to becoming the new Bulls head of basketball operations. 

Klee said, "this was a great opportunity and a job that I know personally, Arturas has had his eyes on." Karnisovas was actually a member of the 1992 Lithuanian national basketball team that finished with a bronze medal and put up a valiant effort against the Michael Jordan-led Dream Team and you can even find a photo of Karnisovas taking a picture of the Dream Team during the action.

There was obviously a level of respect and admiration for MJ's game from international hoopers and there is a strong possibility Karnisovas has been dreaming of working for the Bulls organization in some capacity for a long time. Regardless, Karnisovas' storied past as a big-time international basketball player, when combined with his reputation and record of doing things "his way," makes him a clear cut step in the right direction.

"He is not going to be a guy who is doing zoom calls with media all the time...that's not really his cup of tea. He's a more measured, reserved, thoughtful guy, watches the room and then he figures what move he's gonna make. If they were looking for a public face of the franchise, he's gonna point those cameras towards the locker room. He wants the players to be in front." Klee continued that Karnisovas isn't someone who is known to come out and make too many statements about his players, as he prefers to keep things close to the vest until he is absolutely sure of his next move.

"He likes to know that you know your stuff before he shares any of his," stated Klee. Karnisovas is slated to come into Chicago and immediately start to put his stamp on a completely revamped Bulls front office. And after 17 years of the John Paxson regime, Bulls fans are extremely excited to see what a different team-building process looks like. The Bulls have given Arturas Karnisovas the keys to the kingdom and all signs point to him confidently and aggressively bringing the Bulls back to prominence. 

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