Denzel Valentine vows to work hard, remain team player as he waits for turn

Denzel Valentine vows to work hard, remain team player as he waits for turn

As Bulls practice wound down Monday at the Advocate Center, coach Jim Boylen pulled Denzel Valentine aside from group shooting drills and spoke to him at center court.

“It was just about him recognizing what I did in my G League performance,” Valentine said.

Valentine, who is playing through a sprained left pinky he suffered in that performance, scored 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting with 18 rebounds and eight assists in Windy City’s victory over the Wisconsin Herd last Friday. Given that Valentine has played just 5 minutes in one NBA game thus far this season, the G League game marked Valentine’s most significant action since undergoing reconstructive left ankle surgery that knocked him out all of last season.

Asked if the performance boosted his confidence or made not getting the chance to contribute at the NBA level more difficult, Valentine didn’t hesitate.

“I think a little bit of both. Like I told (Boylen), obviously I want to play. I’m a competitor. And I know I can play. I’m very confident in that,” Valentine said. “But that’s not in my control right now.  I’m just here to work hard and support the team in any way I can.”

Throughout much of the offseason, Valentine’s return from ankle surgery landed him in the same storylines as additions like Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young. Here was a player who averaged 10.2 points in 27.2 minutes while shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range poised to fit right into the Bulls’ increased emphasis on taking 3-pointers.

Instead, as the Bulls sit at 25th with a 3-point percentage of 31.4, Valentine is out of the rotation. Chandler Hutchison, Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison all have currently leapfrogged the former lottery pick.

“I’m a very confident player. I know what I can do. And 3-point shooting is definitely one of those things,” Valentine said. “I think I could add energy, leadership, ballhandling, the ability to guard multiple positions. I’m an experienced player. I think I can bring a lot to the floor. But I’m just focused on working hard. Whatever they want me to do, that’s what I’ll do.

“My role here for the Chicago Bulls is to work hard and support the team in any way I can. I’m just happy and blessed to be healthy, to be honest.”

Valentine said his surgically repaired ankle “feels great” and that his game shape while playing for the Windy City Bulls pleased him. Asked if he knows why he’s not playing, Valentine said: “I’m not too sure. You’d have to ask Coach.”

Here’s how that went.

Reporter: Why is (Valentine) out of the rotation?

Boylen: Because I said so.

Reporter: Is there something specific that he needs to improve?

Boylen: I think he needs some seasoning and he needs to play and he needs to grow.

Reporter: Grow in which areas?

Boylen: All areas.

Reporter: Why didn’t you play him at end of the (blowout) Rockets game?

Boylen: Because I didn’t want to.

In previous, more forthcoming interviews, Boylen has pointed to several players shooting below their career 3-point percentages. So it’s likely that theory offsets in Boylen’s mind his need to try minutes for Valentine, a career 37.4 percent 3-point shooter, to help the Bulls improve in that area.

Also, Boylen has consistently used a 10-man rotation. So it’s not like he’s not trying multiple players and multiple looks. Valentine just isn’t currently one of them.

“Stay ready,” Boylen said. “That’s what he needs to do.”

Valentine promised he would. 

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2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

It’s felt pre-ordained for months now. Now, it appears it’s decided.

No, the Bulls didn’t draw the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (yet). But The Athletic’s Shams Charania did report Monday afternoon that the lottery scheduled for Aug. 20 will take place virtually. All 14 teams ‘in attendance’ will be allowed to ‘send’ remote representatives. The event will presumably be televised, but details haven’t emerged on that front yet.

It’s a logical gameplan given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing nature, and the acclaim received by virtual draft showcases broadcast by the WNBA and NFL while live sports in the United States were effectively paused.

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The news also sends a few ripples in Bulls world. For one, who will rep the team, in this, its third consecutive lottery appearance? Michael Reinsdorf and Horace Grant manned the post in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But for this year? Benny the Bull would be sure to bring the energy. On the heels of the summer of “The Last Dance,” perhaps a dynasty-era contributor could get the call. Or maybe a newly-minted front office face instead? Time will tell.

And, as our K.C. Johnson pointed out on Twitter, this development also marks the end of a two-year streak of Chicago hosting the lottery in 2018 and 2019. The city has long housed the combine.

Here’s what Adam Silver told NBC Sports Chicago in February when asked his impressions of Chicago as a host-city for the lottery:

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

Silver made that comment before All-Star weekend in Chicago, but all of the above virtues translated. Though Bulls representation was limited, no one would deny Chicago played a splendid host for the festivities.

The Bulls enter this year’s lottery locked into the seventh-best odds (7.5%) at nabbing the No. 1 pick, and a 32% chance of vaulting into the top four. 

Slots No. 1 through No. 8 in the lottery standings are set with the teams excluded from the NBA’s restart. Slots No. 9 through 14 will populate at the end of the play-in round, when postseason seeding is officially set. Teams that started the restart as a top-eight seed in either conference can fall into the lottery if they miss the playoffs, but the ultimate order of the lottery odds will be decided by pre-hiatus record (meaning, for example, that if the current standings hold and the Phoenix Suns finish with a better record than the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but miss the postseason, the Suns would own better lottery odds than the Pels and Kings by virtues of each team’s pre-hiatus record).

All of which is to say, clear your calendars for next Thursday. After that, rumor and speculation are sure to swirl until the draft itself, which, as of right now, is reportedly scheduled for Oct. 16. The status of the combine remains up in the air, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported July 23 that the league is polling teams on which players should be invited to the combine if one takes place.

For the Bulls, helmed by a new front office regime and facing a moment of reckoning in the current rebuild, this year’s draft process is an especially crucial one.


Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

NBC Sports Chicago is counting down the top 10 Bulls at each position in franchise history.

We've hit the point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. And last, but certainly not least, the men in the middle. The centers.

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Defensive anchors, multi-skilled hubs and blue-collar tenacity abound in these rankings. And plenty of hardware — both of the championship and individual variety.

We hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Without further adieu...

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history