SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Jerian Grant experience remained alive and well Thursday night, as the second-year guard made his second consecutive start of the season.
Veteran Rajon Rondo (left ankle sprain) could only do some spot-shooting during the morning shootaround leading into the game against the Jazz, leaving Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg no choice but to rule Rondo out.
And while Grant has given the Bulls a spark to kick off off the Circus Trip, Hoiberg went out of his way to make sure that Rondo’s importance in the 7-4 start wasn’t being discounted.
“I’ll say this: I thought he was a huge key for our early season success when we were playing with great pace out of the gate,’’ Hoiberg said. “A lot of that was because of Rajon, and just the way he was talking to our guys and getting them going after every huddle. You know, ‘Run with me.’ We went into some struggles, and it wasn’t just him. It was the team all across the board. Then the Miami game he was as big a reason we won that game as anybody.’’
It was in that win over the Heat that Rondo scored 16 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out six assists.
What hasn’t shown up in the box score, however, has been the way that Rondo has kept a strong leadership voice with the team, whether he’s on the court or sitting on the bench.
“Rondo’s been around this game for a long time,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s one of the reasons that we’ve developed really good chemistry. His voice has continued. Even when we had that three-game stretch where we didn’t win, he kept his voice consistent. Then again, he’s had some really good moments for us and we anticipate that throughout the season.’’
The hope is to have Rondo up and running for Saturday’s game in Los Angeles against the Clippers, which means getting back to a rotation in which Hoiberg can stagger Rondo with Jimmy Butler after the first quarter.
That’s been the trend through the first 10 games in which both have played in, as both start, but when Rondo is getting a breather Butler can be the primary ball-handler.
“They’ve had some very good moments on the floor together this year,’’ Hoiberg said. “I think you see in the rotations and the way we’re staggering some of the things, we’ll get them on the floor at different times to take advantage of both their play-making skills. [Dwyane] Wade as well.
“Again, it’s great to have multiple play-makers. When you have three guys on the floor that can get into the paint, generally good things happen. If you can get it up the floor quick before a defense gets set it’s going to help everybody.’’
Wade pointed out that wins can’t be taken for granted at this level, and pointed to teammate Isaiah Canaan as Exhibit A.
Canaan came from a Philadelphia team that saw very little winning there in recent years.
“Like we started off 2-0 and [Canaan] was like, ‘Yo, I haven’t had no two-game win streak,’ ‘’ Wade said. “You take that little stuff for granted man, but it’s real. I think just things like that, guys understood that last year they didn’t have the year they wanted here in this organization. You’re appreciative of the good moments.’’