Denzel Valentine is ready to make his NBA debut against Boston

SHARE Denzel Valentine is ready to make his NBA debut against Boston

Denzel Valentine is definitely pick-up game ready.

The rookie showed that on Wednesday, hitting two game-winners in a four-on-four pick-up game late in practice, and oh yeah, hitting both over Jimmy Butler.

But is the first-round pick NBA game ready when the Bulls tip off the season Thursday night against Boston at the United Center?

His coach was hoping so.

“He had a couple very good days,’’ Fred Hoiberg said of Valentine. “He had a really good practice [Tuesday] and followed that up without any soreness [Wednesday] morning. He got some good work in after practice. Those guys down there played a little bit. We’ll monitor him and see how he’s doing [Thursday] morning.’’

Valentine sprained his left ankle in the preseason opener, but was expected to be ready for the final two exhibition games.

The ankle had other ideas for the 14th overall pick, and he wasn’t able to participate in full practices until this week.

“It’s very difficult, and being in Chicago, we’ve played [most] of our preseason games here, so there wasn’t no travelling like mid-season, so everybody is here pretty much every day practicing, and I’ve got to sit out at it,’’ Valentine said. “They kind of lose a little chemistry towards me, and the guys getting to play with me and me getting to know them on the court, so kind of lost a little bit of rhythm.

“But the good thing about me is I don’t need a whole lot of time with the team. I can kind of just sneak my way in and adapt.’’

The plan was to get Valentine through the morning shootaround without a setback, suit him up, and have him ready to get some playing time with the second unit.

As far as how many minutes, Hoiberg wasn’t going to jump in that pool just yet.

Newly-acquired Michael Carter-Williams was also expected to get some minutes against Boston, despite having less than a week of practice after coming over in the Tony Snell trade with Milwaukee.

Mental game

Since naming Taj Gibson the starter at the four spot earlier this week, Hoiberg said that Nikola Mirotic has shown no signs of hanging his head or a lack of confidence after losing out in that competition.

“Niko’s playing with some confidence now,’’ Hoiberg said. “Hopefully, he can continue that in the regular season. He’s going to be a big key to what we’re trying to do this year. If he can stay behind the line and space the floor the way we think he can, that will help everybody. He is playing with confidence. Now it’s about carrying it over to game-type action.’’

High praise

Veteran Rajon Rondo played for the Celtics’ Brad Stevens before he started floating around the league, and had some kind words for his former coach.

“Probably the most positive coach I’ve ever played for,’’ Rondo said. “Very inspiring, very encouraging. As a player, you wanna play for a guy like Brad Stevens.

“He’s a good ATO [after the timeout] coach. Fred is as well. He’s very poised. Doc [Rivers] is too, so is Rick Carlisle.’’

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