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Remember me? Bulls guard Denzel Valentine has a huge summer ahead

TORONTO — It’s easy to forget sometimes that the 14th overall pick from the 2016 draft is still on the Bulls’ roster.

Not that it’s Denzel Valentine’s fault necessarily, but it has been a strange three seasons for the former Michigan State standout.

He spent his rookie season in the background as a result of the Jimmy Butler-Dwyane Wade alpha takeover, tried to find his way between a starting and reserve role last season, then missed all of this season after reconstructive ankle surgery.

The hope for Valentine at this time next year is that he’s a key rotation player, providing a serious threat from three-point range as well as some solid playmaking.

For his sake, he’d better produce.

“Absolutely,’’ coach Jim Boylen said Tuesday when asked if it was sink-or-swim time for Valentine. “It’s a huge summer for him. A huge moment in his career to establish himself in the league. That’s why injuries break my heart because you have a chance to establish yourself in the league, and you have to make the most out of that opportunity.’’


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Valentine will be in the last season of his rookie deal in 2019-20, and if he wants to remain a part of the rebuild, he’ll have to earn it.

Hopefully, he can replicate his 38.6 percent shooting from three-point range and flash some of that defense he displayed last season. Considering the lack of depth on the Bulls’ roster, those skills would be welcomed with open arms.

“[Valentine] is a worker, he’s a tough guy and he loves the game,’’ Boylen said. “He likes playing. He enjoys the competition part of it. He’s a 40 percent three-point shooter, and we miss that alone. That would change the way we look. I think he was over 40 [percent] off the bounce, too, so those two things apply to the NBA game right now. He can take that lid off the damn rim.

“So I’m looking forward to him coming back. I know he’s anxious, he’s focused, and I know he’ll work.’’

As far as the summer plans for Valentine, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said that playing in the Summer League wouldn’t be ruled out, but only if Valentine wanted to go that route.

Red Fred?

Nebraska made it official, parting ways with coach Tim Miles after seven seasons, and while Fred Hoiberg’s name has been floating around that job for the last month, a source said the former Bulls coach is still in the decision process.

Hoiberg, who was fired Dec. 3, will be paid through next season by the Bulls, and while he has serious Nebraska connections — his grandfather coached there and Hoiberg was recruited to play football there — the Sun-Times has reported on several occasions that the top priority for Hoiberg was an NBA job.

“I don’t know where Fred’s mind is right now, but it seems like an unbelievable fit for him and his family,’’ Boylen said of the Nebraska rumors. ‘‘And he’s got some history there. I know it’s a great place to live. It’s in the Big Ten, which to me is a great conference. Whatever Fred chooses to do, I know he’ll be successful, and he’ll give it all he’s got.’’