Denzel Valentine could have returned this season.
But what would be the point?
The left ankle problem he has been dealing with since his rookie season is not improving, so the third-year wing decided to think big picture and have season-ending reconstructive surgery in the hopes of finally feeling what it’s like to be stable at the NBA level.
“I missed an entire season as a freshman in high school, so I pretty much know what it’s like. Not to the extreme at this level, but I know it’s going to suck,’’ Valentine said Tuesday. “I’ve just got to try and attack rehab and come back as best as I can.
“I’m fully confident that I will come back and be 100 percent. Who knows if I’ve ever been 100 percent this whole time in my NBA career, so I’m really excited about coming back.’’
According to Valentine, the left ankle hasn’t been great since the Bulls selected him 14th overall in the 2016 draft, but it has always bounced back. When it happened again in mid-September, right before training camp officially started, he realized there would be no quick fix this time.
“When I first did it, I came back. I usually have in the past when I turned it,’’ Valentine said. “And it took me usually a week or two to get it back right again, so I knew once I took a week or two, I came back. It kind of swelled up on me, and I did that twice. After that, I knew there was something wrong. Once I saw the doctor, he told me ‘I think you need to make a tough decision.’ ’’
And yet another setback for the Bulls.
Valentine was by no means a star, but he was valuable, especially off the bench as a three-point shooter and playmaker.
After some rookie blues, he picked up his game last season, averaging 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists, as well as a .386 shooting percentage from three-point range, which was third on the team.
He came into this season penciled in as a key figure off the bench, but now faces a rehab of four to six months.
“When I come back, it’s going to be a brand new ankle,’’ Valentine said. “I’ve been pretty much having ankle issues ever since my rookie year, so I mean, I think I’m going to be fine. I think I’m going to take my game to another level because I’m going to be more stable in my ankle. It will take a whole year, get my body right, which I haven’t been able to do since college, really. I’ve just been on the go, on the go, on the go, so it could be a blessing in disguise is how I have to look at it.’’
The Bulls look at it as just more carnage for the season.
At least there is clarity on Valentine, but Lauri Markkanen (right elbow), Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee) are still out.
So much for a season of high hopes.
“It’s kind of disappointing because we saw the vision at the beginning of the season when we first came here in September, and we looked pretty good,’’ Valentine said. “It kind of stinks that we can’t show that now because I’m hurt or whoever is hurt. Hopefully, we come back strong and make a run at it, but it’s definitely been disappointing with all the injuries.’’