LAS VEGAS – Plan D – as in D-Wade – has changed everything for Denzel Valentine.
When the rookie was drafted out of Michigan State 14th overall last month, there was growing momentum that he could start for the Bulls.
The additions of veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade have cemented Valentin firmly on the bench, and honestly he seemed just fine with that.
“Because I’m going to be learning from the best of the best,’’ Valentine said. “I mean D-Wade is probably one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game, so if I can learn from him, you know, my first couple years and see how he gets ready for games, plays games, takes care of his body, just learn the ropes from him, Jimmy, Rondo … those guys are all phenomenal players.
“They’ve all won championships, so if I can learn from those guys and still play, be in the rotation, that’s the probably the best situation for me.’’
Making his Summer League debut on Saturday, that learning process was underway. The Bulls beat the Celtics, 71-62, so that was the good news. Valentine was an instant leader, and his court vision was on full display. He grabbed six rebounds and finished with eight points, but shot just 4-for-16 from the field, including 0-for-9 from beyond the three-point line.
“My shot wasn’t falling, but other than that I tried doing all the little things – defend, get some rebounds, add energy to the team, lead, and even if my shot’s not falling I can bring other things to the floor,’’ Valentine said. “And with my shot falling that would just be a bonus.’’
Bobby Portis led the Bulls in the victory, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Fred Hoiberg was staying away from labeling the Bulls “Jimmy Butler’s team.’’
“It’s a team sport,’’ the second-year coach said. “We’re not talking golf or tennis here. We’ve got to have five players on the floor out there meshing together. Jimmy’s one of the top players in the world right now, and I know he’s excited about the moves that we made this offseason.’’
What Hoiberg did confirm, however, was Butler has done everything in his power to try and make the Bulls better this offseason, whether it’s been working out with the young players or actively recruiting veteran free agents.
“I think anybody that is a competitor, when you’re coming off a disappointing season is going to do anything in their power to get it turned around,’’ Hoiberg said. “Jimmy has absolutely done that.’’