Chicago's Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor meet for first time in NBA


Chicago's Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor meet for first time in NBA

Jahlil Okafor has always followed in Jabari Parker's footsteps. Now, with both having completed their dreams of making it to the NBA, they'll meet on the game's biggest stage for the first time tonight.

The last time the pair played against one another - March 8, 2013 - Parker's Simeon Wolverines knocked off Okafor's Whitney Young Dolphins, 69-51, in the IHSA 4A sectional. Parker, then a 17-year-old senior, scored 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the victory. Okafor, a junior making a name for himself on the national scene, scored 13 points in the season-ending loss.

Parker's Simeon teams met Okafor's Whitney Young squads six times in the three seasons the duo overlapped (2011-2013) in high school, with the elder Parker owning a 5-1 record against Okafor. Parker averaged 14.3 points in those games, while Okafor averaged 12.5 points in the last four games they squared off. Those in attendance during the three-year span included mayor Rahm Emmanuel, collegiate head coaches Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski, Simeon alum Derrick Rose, and Anthony Davis.

That last meeting also was Okafor's last chance to dethrone Parker, the All-American and eventual McDonald's National Player of the Year, from winning a fourth straight title. Parker went on to win that state title in 2013, earning Mr. Basketball honors in Illinois for the second consecutive season.

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The following year Parker arrived on campus at Duke, earning 2014 first team All-American honors after averaging 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 35 games. His season was somewhat clouded by an exit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but it squarely placed Parker in the thick of things as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

While Parker was having his way with ACC opponents in Durham, the senior Okafor was ready for his turn in the Chicago spotlight. His top-ranked Whitney Young squad went 28-5, and behind Okafor's dominance earned the program's third state title. Okafor averaged 24.2 points and 11.3 rebounds, was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois and named a McDonald's All-American, all the same as Parker had done a year earlier.

Okafor also pledged his commitment to Coach K and Duke, arriving months after Parker had made the decision to jump to the NBA. But Okafor and the country's top-ranked recruiting class wound up fine without Parker's help, going 35-4 and winning the NCAA title, the fifth for Krzyzewski. Okafor was the country's best big man, averaging 17.3 points on 66 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds.

The No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Parker saw his season cut short after he tore his ACL in mid-December, cutting his 2014-15 rookie season short just 25 games in. He hasn't played since, missing the Bucks' preseason slate despite head coach Jason Kidd being pleased with the Chicago native's progress. He has missed the Bucks' first four games of the year but will debut tonight in Milwaukee, likely on a strict minutes limit.

He'll square off against his Windy City rival when the Philadelphia 76ers come to town. Okafor, selected with the No. 3 pick in June's draft, has averaged 20.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in a superb start for the rebuilding Sixers (0-3).

It'll be yet another exciting chapter for two of the most storied athletes in Chicago preps history. Below is the pair after meeting on the court for the first time in 2011.

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks


Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

The Bulls are still scrambling to add depth at point guard and found another body to throw in the rotation.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Bulls "are planning to sign" Shaquille Harrison. Harrison was waived by the Suns on Monday.

In order to complete the move, the Bulls are reportedly waiving center Omer Asik.

Harrison went undrafted out of Tulsa in 2016. The Suns signed him and sent him to the then NBA D-League. Last season, the 25-year-old from Kansas City played in 23 games and made two starts in the NBA. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 assists in 16.7 minutes per game.

The Suns signed Jamal Crawford earlier this week and waived Harrison. The Bulls apparently have swooped in.

This move comes just six days after the Bulls added Tyler Ulis, who was also waived by the Suns. Ulis didn't play in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia.

Kris Dunn will miss his second straight game Saturday against the Pistons. His absence against the Sixers showed the lack of depth at guard for the Bulls. Cam Payne started at point guard and split minutes with Ryan Arcidiacono. Payne went 0-for-4 in 21 minutes and led coach Fred Hoiberg to say potential lineup changes are "still up in the air."

Harrison can now join Payne, Arcidiacono and Ulis in a battle for backup minutes at point guard when Dunn returns to the lineup.