Bulls: Jerian Grant shines after early-season inactivity

Bulls: Jerian Grant shines after early-season inactivity

PORTLAND--There’s no great motivator like inactivity.

Jerian Grant arrived in Chicago through the Derrick Rose trade before draft night, and had done little to impress those watching him since—as Robin Lopez was crowned as the chief piece in the Bulls trading away a former MVP.

As a 2015 first-round pick, Grant found himself among the clutter in the Bulls’ roster and on opening night, couldn’t even put on a jersey for his actual debut. The feeling was probably something like no other he’d felt in his entire basketball career, even if the intention wasn’t to embarrass.

“When you’re inactive you feel like you’re the last guy on the team,” said Grant, who was on the Bulls' inactive list the first three games. “Everybody else is out there suited up, so I wanted to prove to myself, to everybody out there that I’m not the last guy. I’m a guy that can contribute to this team.”

Fast forward to 11 games in the season, and Grant found himself center stage in the Bulls’ wire-to-wire win over the Portland Trailblazers as a surprise starter when Rajon Rondo couldn’t go with an ankle injury.

It didn’t matter that Damian Lillard, the league’s third-best scorer, was on the other side. All Grant saw was opportunity and he seized it as quickly as it appeared at his doorstep.

“You talk to people that have been in that position, and they just tell you stay ready,” Grant said. “Your opportunity is going to come. Eighty-two games in this league, things happen, so just stay ready. That’s been my mentality.”

Grant introduced himself to the Bulls fans who stayed up late to watch the romp, barely letting Lillard out of his sights while also scoring 18 points and getting five steals in 30 minutes.

He knew he had help defensively but his long 6-foot-4 frame was the first line of defense in making Tuesday the second-worst night of the season for Lillard (he went one for 10 against the Clippers a week ago).

“Keep the ball out of his hands, once he gets the ball he’s dynamic,” Grant said. “So really keep it out of his hands.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Playing next to Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler eased the burden on him having to be a primary playmaker, something he struggled at in the preseason, leading to his inactive status for the opener.

“Yeah, it’s great playing with those guys. They give you a lot of confidence,” Grant said. “When I was named the starter they came to me, sat me down, and said, ‘You’re the point guard, so let’s go.’ That gave me a lot of confidence to just go out there and play my game.”

Butler said he saw some type of success coming for Grant, simply because he put in the work by being “constantly in the gym, asking the right questions, wanting to do well”.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg noted the inactive status didn’t deter the second-year guard, monitoring Grant during the competitive 3-on-3 games following Bulls practices.

It was a blow to Grant’s ego but not his competitive spirit. Dwyane Wade said he was glad Grant wasn’t just a player happy to be on a roster to start the season.

“It’s definitely tough. At first you’re shocked, but then it makes you work harder,” Grant said. “It puts things into a reality check, and makes you get back into the gym and work that much harder. As disappointed as I was, it makes you work harder, and I stayed ready.”

Staying ready meant staying attached to Lillard, being ready to knock down open shots and also, picking and choosing the right times to attack defenses when the ball swung to him from Wade or Butler.

“I just feel like I’m out there trying to make plays,” Grant said. “Today I felt like they were kind of playing me as a guy that is going to be out there trying to pass, so it helped me be more aggressive.”

The chatter about the Bulls being a better unit without Rondo will certainly begin over the next couple days, but the revelation that they’ve found a dependable option who looks comfortable in the most critical of settings—playing next to Wade and Butler—should be the grandest one of all.

“He wasn’t intimidated at all. He went out there and battled,” Hoiberg said. “Lillard, you could argue he’s as good as we have in this league at that lead guard position. Just to play with that poise that he played with really for his first meaningful minutes and to guard one of the top players in this league, I thought he handled it great.”

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career


Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.