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.”

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Toronto Raptors head coach and lifelong Cubs fan Nick Nurse was in Chicago on Friday to throw out the 1st pitch and sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

It was a major moment for Nurse—who grew up in Carroll, Iowa and played college basketball at the University of Northern Iowa—to be able to talk with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Maddon actually started his pro baseball career as a catcher for the Quad Cities Angles, based out of Davenport, Iowa, in 1976.

Nurse stated that Maddon is a huge inspiration to him and was clearly overjoyed to speak with someone he considers an excellent leader. Nurse's Chicago trip would not have been complete without a little NBA talk and he had no problem discussing his faith in colleague and Bulls head coach Jim Boylen.

"Well, first of all, Jimmy Boylen, the head coach, is a good friend of mine and he is a hell of a coach."

Nurse went on to joke about not wanting the Bulls to do "too well" of course, as the two teams will see each other four times next season and will both be battling for a potential postseason berth in a new-look, wide-open Eastern Conference. The Raptors, of course, will be looking to make another deep playoff run despite the loss of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Bulls will be looking to at least have a competitive season after finishing with a whopping 60 losses in 2018-19, their first 60-loss season since 2002. 

But when discussing the future outlook of the Bulls, Nurse was confident in the direction of the franchise and Boylen's presence as a strong headman for the team is a major reason why. 

"Everything rises and falls with leadership and...he'll be a good leader for them."

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

On Friday afternoon the Nike Rise Camp took place at Kenwood High School and it was hosted by new Lakers star and Chicago native Anthony Davis.

Davis is excited to be able to help the Chicago youth with camps like Nike Rise, especially the much younger generations. The Nike Rise Camp is for kids ages 8-17 and focuses on skill development, drills, game programming, and various workshops. 

Davis stated that while he went to many of the illustrious basketball camps—like Pangos, Five-Star, Nike's individual player camps, etc.—he hadn't been to any basketball training camps at such a young age.

These kids are amazing, y'know, they're fun to hang around, they listen, they wanna learn. [There's] some good talent upstairs.....The future is definitely bright for all these young kids so I'm excited to come back and just give them my knowledge and my experience and spend that time with them."

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When asked to describe the relationship Chicago has with basketball, Davis made sure to laud the toughness of the Chicago hoops scene.

"It's basketball in any condition, y'know you gonna find a way to play...their love for the game right now is tremendous...No matter if it's hot, it's freezing cold in the gym, outside it's raining, whatever."

By any means necessary, we wanna play the game.

-Anthony Davis on the mindset of Chicago basketball

On a summer day with 90+ degree weather, the Kenwood Academy gym was even hotter inside but that didn't stop the coaches and trainees from getting in a great workout. 

Davis minced no words when letting the world know how he feels about Chicago hoops, "In Chicago, it means a lot more to us because we are a basketball city and we are the Mecca of Basketball and you can quote me on that."