Windy City Bulls

Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Since going unselected in the 2017 NBA Draft, PJ Dozier has had his fair share of stops, from brief stints signed to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, to successive one-year pacts with the Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18) and Boston Celtics (2018-19). He spent most of the latter two tenures in the G League.

Dozier began the 2019-20 season signed to the Denver Nuggets on a two-way deal, but assigned to the Windy City Bulls, the Bulls' G League affiliate, along with 2019 second-round draftee of the Nuggets Bol Bol. 

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On Tuesday, the Nuggets officially announced they are converting Dozier's two-way deal into a multi-year contract with the team.

It's great news for Dozier, who enjoyed a dominating campaign for Windy City. In 18 games with the team, he averaged 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 43.8-32.6-74.1 shooting splits. A 6-foot-6 playmaking wing, Dozier flashed plus ball-handling, scoring and facilitating ability at a position of supreme value in the modern game.

He parlayed all of the above into a midseason All-NBA G League selection, but was recently left off the end-of-season all-league teams, presumably due to a limited sample size. He was called up to the Nuggets in mid-January and made an immediate impact, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 from 3) in his debut, a win over the Charlotte Hornets. He reset his NBA career high one week later with a 15-point outing against the Houston Rockets.

In the run-up to the NBA pausing its season, Dozier appeared in 21 of 26 games for the Nuggets, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He'd appeared in just eight career NBA games before that stretch. 

How much of an imprint will he make on the Nuggets' rotation when the NBA season restarts? It's too soon to say. But it seems the longtime G League standout's breakthrough at the next level could be coming.

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Hoffman Estates' Sears Centre, home of Windy City Bulls, renamed NOW Arena

Hoffman Estates' Sears Centre, home of Windy City Bulls, renamed NOW Arena

The home of the Windy City Bulls is undergoing a rebrand.

Monday, the Hoffman Estates Village Board approved a proposal that will rename the Sears Centre the NOW Arena, according to ABC 7.

ABC 7 reported that the deal, which transfers naming rights from Transformoco to the NOW Health Group (a natural food and supplement manufacturer and distributor), will last 15 years and is valued at $11.25 million in its totality.

Upon the news of the G League's season's cancellation, the Windy City Bulls reported burgeoning attendance numbers, including the largest crowd in the organization's Opening Night history and an average attendance of 2,690 — an 11% increase year-over-year.

The Sears Centre has been the home of the Windy City Bulls since the team's inception in 2016.

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Chicago-native Milton Doyle still chasing NBA dream

Chicago-native Milton Doyle still chasing NBA dream

While the NBA continues to work on scenarios for resuming the 2019-‘20 season at some point in the next few months, the chances of the G-League playing any more games are virtually nil. The regular season for the NBA’s developmental league was scheduled to end on March 28th, with a champion crowned in mid-April before the start of the NBA playoffs. Although no official cancellation of the league’s remaining schedule has been announced, the expectation among all teams is that the current season will not be resumed.

Locally, the Windy City Bulls had seven games remaining on their schedule when the suspension was announced because of the coronavirus outbreak. Their record of 17-26 had them in 13th place in the 15 team Eastern Conference. Still, the team played hard under 1st-year coach Damian Cotter, with its playoff chances derailed by injuries and a roster that was constantly changing over the last few months.

One constant was the play of veteran guard Milton Doyle, who averaged almost 35 minutes, scoring 17.5 points, grabbing 4.1 rebounds and dishing out 5.9 assists per game.

For a kid who grew up in Chicago just as the Michael Jordan-led Bulls dynasty was coming to a close, Doyle is very familiar with what basketball means to the city.

Doyle was a 1st team All-State selection at Marshall High School, averaging 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals during his senior season. From there, he went to Loyola University and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year for the 2013-14 season. Doyle capped his college career by becoming the 1st Loyola player to earn first-team all-conference honors.

Since that time, Doyle has worked tirelessly to get a chance to become a full-time NBA player, competing in the G-League and overseas. Doyle did get a look with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2017-18 season, appearing in 10 games and scoring a career-high 8 points against his hometown Bulls.

But like so many players in the G-League, Doyle has found it difficult to break through to a long-term opportunity in the NBA. The Chicago native will turn 27 in October and understands time is working against him to try to achieve that dream.

“I think it’s a short time span to get to the NBA, especially because now guys are coming in, going from high school to overseas or one and done, so I think it’s a short time span to try to solidify yourself in the league.”

Doyle was invited to training camp with the hometown Bulls last fall, but with so many guaranteed contracts already in place, he didn’t have a chance to make the roster. Still, he was able to stay in the Chicago area playing for the Bulls’ G-League affiliate in Hoffman Estates. Doyle was asked to play a lot of point guard as injuries and roster turnover caused Windy City to drop out of playoff contention after an encouraging start.

Playing in front of family and friends at the Sears Centre was fun, but not getting an NBA call-up made Doyle’s homecoming a bittersweet experience. “A lot of ups and downs this season as far as win-loss record. But it’s been fun just playing. This year I’ve been more of a point guard, so learning from a different position, just kind of growing, I’ve been enjoying it.”

Doyle spent the 2018-19 season in Spain’s ultra-competitive ACB League but then decided to come home and dedicate his efforts towards making it back to the NBA. He battled through several nagging injuries to become Windy City’s most irreplaceable player, developing his skills in directing an offense while also showing the ability to take over games with his long-distance shooting ability.

After getting a taste of life in the NBA during those 10 games with Brooklyn, Doyle is driven by the hope of getting back to the league. “Just day by day, see what happens. Being in the G-League, any day anything can change, so just trying to take it day by day.”

With professional sports leagues currently on hiatus all over the world, Doyle doesn’t know when or where he’ll be playing when it’s safe to resume basketball competition, but he understands more than most the precarious life of a professional athlete.

The coronavirus pandemic ended Doyle’s hopes of an NBA call-up this season, but you can bet the Chicago native will pursue whatever opportunities present themselves in the coming months to achieve his ultimate dream.

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