Some games, it seems Ryan Arcidiacono spends as much time on the floor as the mops that ballboys use to sweep up sweat.
Some of his pursuits for loose balls are physical. They look painful. Not that Arcidiacono ever would let on if they were.
“I got a football background. I try to be mentally and physically tough and do whatever it takes to help our team win,” Arcidiacono said. “I don’t want anyone to see when I’m hurting. I think it’s a mindset that my teammates see in me and my opponents see, as well. If they [see] me sluggish, they’ll try to capitalize on that. I try to be mentally tougher and not let them pounce on anything.”
Does anyone wonder why coach Jim Boylen trusts this guy?
Now, whether Arcidiacono landing in the closing rotation for three straight games over players projected to be ahead of him in the rotation is good for the rebuild is a story for another day. (Spoiler alert: It’s probably not.) This story is about a player who moved from a two-way contract, to a non-guaranteed contract, to a guaranteed contract and now an unexpected rotation spot.
“Arch is helluva basketball player,” coach Jim Boylen said. “He’s a smart kid. He’s a tough kid.”
Arcidiacono’s pursuits of loose balls sometimes lead to comical results. In Monday’s loss to the Bucks, he and fellow Villanova product Donte DiVincenzo chased two on one possession.
“The first one, we dove together,” Arcidiacono said. “And then there was one by the bench, and I told him at the free throw line, ‘I wasn’t diving for that one.’ He said, ‘Yeah, neither was I.’
“That first one was good. It reminded me old practices back at Villanova. Donte is such a great athlete and freak competitor.”
Arcidiacono also tied up Giannis Antetokounmpo twice, leading to separate jump ball situations. The 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo won both, obviously, and offered something of a back-handed compliement of the 6-foot-3 Arcidiacono, saying, “he’s the only one from the Bulls that’s going diving for the balls on the floor.”
In a savvy move, Arcidiacono actually tried to pawn the jump ball duties off to a taller teammate. It didn’t work.
“I knew I wasn’t going to win. There aren’t many people I’d win against,” Arcidiacono said. “But I’m still going to be competitive, get on the floor.”
Arcidiacono is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, leading the Bulls in charges taken and averaging 2.1 assists to just 0.5 turnovers. A costly one in the fourth quarter still irked Arcidiacono well after the fact.
“I’m kicking myself,” he said. “I can’t make those plays.”
Through 14 games, the Bulls have been outscored by a staggering 46 points in the fourth quarter. That’s a big reason why they’re 4-10. And it’s also why Arcidiacono is getting this opportunity. Boylen trusts him.
“Competing, making shots, making good deep-drive decisions, taking charges, diving on loose balls, playing winning basketball,” Boylen said when asked why he’s closing with Arcidiacono. “He makes other people better. We need more of that. And he does it.”
Whether he continues to get the opportunity to make plays — positive and otherwise — in the fourth quarter remains to be seen. Whatever happens, Arcidiacono knows his role and takes the right approach.
“I’ve been trying to knock down shots, get the ball moving and make the simple, solid play[s]. I think our team benefits from that,” he said. “Finding Coby [White] in transition and getting him going a little bit helps us. I try to do all the little things — get on the floor, make those little possessions count.
“I’ll play my heart out for this team and this city and do what’s best for the Bulls. If [Boylen] tells me to play, I’ll play. If he wants me to be on the bench, I’ll cheer on my teammates as best I can.”
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