Bulls

Spencer Dinwiddie emerging as dependable option behind Rajon Rondo

Spencer Dinwiddie emerging as dependable option behind Rajon Rondo

When Denzel Valentine sprained his ankle in the preseason opener, it seemed as if the Bulls’ only real option at backup point guard would be lost for a couple weeks but it opened the door for Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie’s smooth and under control drives to the basket—never too fast, certainly not a blur—makes you wonder if he can assert himself in that way when the games count.

But he’s certainly opened eyes and seemingly earned the opportunity to play with the regulars when Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg starts ramping up the minutes in the last five preseason games.

He’s jumped ahead of Jerian Grant and Isaiah Canaan on Hoiberg’s internal depth chart of dependable reserves, although he was probably the most unlikely on the list to be thought of earning minutes. 

“He's got great instincts out there on the basketball floor,” Hoiberg said. “He's got good size, he can make plays over the top. He had a couple of good finishes last night. The best thing about it was, I thought he had good decision-making. We want that consistency, especially with that backup guard spot.”

Dinwiddie led the Bulls in scoring in their 115-108 loss to the Indiana Pacers Thursday with 19 points with six rebounds. Initially acquired in a trade with Detroit for Cameron Bairstow, and then released when the Bulls needed the extra cap space to sign Dwyane Wade, it didn’t appear there would be any roster space for Dinwiddie, much less an opportunity to make a way into the playing rotation.

“It's okay man. In the scope of things, I'd probably cut myself too,” Dinwiddie said with a smile but had all the seriousness of a veteran who knew what he was saying.

But he was re-signed shortly after being released and played in summer league, so the former second-round pick was looking at any opportunity as an opportunity to stick and make his mark in the league.

After tearing his ACL in college his junior year at Colorado, Dinwiddie went from hearing the comparisons to former Colorado guard Chauncey Billups—stemming from their cool charisma, intelligence and playing style—to being a second-round pick by the Pistons in 2014 and being an afterthought in the NBA landscape.

“It was a very tough surgery, well documented. Lottery pick before, second rounder after,” Dinwiddie said. “Physically I feel better. It's been two and a half years now, so I've been in the weight room, grinding hard all summer. That's a real big focus because I gotta keep my legs as strong as I possible, just to keep myself from getting hurt.”

He wasn’t an afterthought to the Bulls, who got to see him up close and personal in a rare chance Dinwiddie was able to show himself in the 2014-15 season. After the Pistons lost Brandon Jennings to an Achilles’ injury but before they acquired point guard Reggie Jackson at the trade deadline, the Bulls and Pistons met up in Auburn Hills in the first game after the All-Star break.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

In his first start of the season, Dinwiddie scored 12 points and added nine assists in 30 minutes in a surprising win for the Pistons. He followed it up a month later with a 10-point, 10-assist game in a rematch, piquing the Bulls’ interest, considering they saw him at his best and the rest of the league only saw inconsistent play.

“Inconsistent opportunity will breed inconsistent play,” Dinwiddie said. “That's pretty much all there was to it. I didn't get to play much and then when I did, it was a mixed bag. I was a little hesitant and something when stuff falls, everything seems to flow. Given consistent minutes I believe I can be a player in this league, like a lot of people do. But I feel like I've proven that to some extent and look forward to continuing to prove that.”

And although it’s been just two games—but longer considering the time Dinwiddie has been around the Advocate Center, it’s been more time than that—he’s attached himself to Rondo, too intelligent and witty guys bonding over a new environment.

“He's brilliant,” Dinwiddie said. “You hear about basketball IQ and his ability to pass and his reputation is far ranging but being around him you realize he's more brilliant than his reputation would say. Just being able to pick his brain and talk to him has been a pleasure.”

And seemingly, Bulls fans will likely find that their newest backup point guard is just as dependable as he is witty.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.