Chicagoan Walt Lemon Jr. makes the most of his Bulls debut in loss to Raptors

SHARE Chicagoan Walt Lemon Jr. makes the most of his Bulls debut in loss to Raptors

Bulls’ Shaquille Harrison (3) goes up for a shot against Toronto Raptors’ Jodie Meeks (20) during the second half Saturday at the United Center. | Paul Beaty/AP

Just another loss for the Bulls. But what a moment for Walt Lemon Jr.

From a humble basketball background on the South Side to Bradley to the G League to the United Center, Lemon lived every Chicago kid’s dream Saturday and made the most of it.

The Bulls lost 124-101 to the Raptors, but Lemon had a night to remember — leading the team with 19 points off the bench on 8-for-15 shooting, with six assists and four steals.

“I was nervous, excited; part of me didn’t want to mess up,” said Lemon, a Julian High School product. “Part of me was a little emotional because I have a Bulls jersey on. And I’m from here.

‘‘It was just a lot of emotions in one. I wanted to play the right way and just really show people who Walt Lemon is. I think I did that for the most part, and I have to keep building on it.”

The Walt Lemon Jr. story might end up becoming a footnote in a disjointed Bulls season — without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, the Bulls (21-56) trailed by 20 or more most of the second half. But, for now, the fairy tale is still alive.

Lemon wasn’t bashful. He drove to the basket, got involved in a double technical after a dustup with Raptors star Kyle Lowry and was unafraid to take his shot. And it paid off.

“He looked like an NBA player,” coach Jim Boylen said. “He got downhill. He’s not scared. He wasn’t going to let anybody bully him out there, and I liked that.


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“He’s a tough kid. I have to give [Windy City Bulls coach Charlie Henry] credit. He’s done a good job with him in the G League situation. He’s a Chicago kid, and he competed. The things he does well transfer to our league, so I’m really happy for him. Tough kid.”

Lemon, 26, was determined to be aggressive but was careful not to overdo it. That’s a lesson he learned in his NBA debut with the Pelicans last season.

“I got into the game, and I was going against Dwyane Wade — that’s my other favorite player [with Derrick Rose],” he said. “I’m like, ‘I’ve got to be aggressive.’ And every time I touched the ball, I put my head down and went to the basket. And it got blocked every time.

“This time I just wanted [to show] I’m a different player than I was at that time. I just want to be more poised and pick and choose when I can get my teammates going.”

Lemon got his first technical foul when he clashed with Lowry at the end of the third quarter.

“Kyle Lowry is a pro, man,’’ Lemon said. ‘‘He’s an All-Star. I respect him. But I’m a dog. When I’m on the court, I don’t care who you are. I’m not backing down from nobody. I don’t care if it’s Kyle Lowry or whoever.”

The moment wasn’t too big for Lemon, but it still overwhelmed him a bit. He was well aware of just how unlikely and unreal it was.

“If you would have told me a couple of days ago that I was going to play 30 minutes against the Raptors — the No. 2 team in the East — on the Bulls’ floor . . . I wouldn’t believe you,” Lemon said. “This is definitely a surreal moment for me. And I’m never going to forget it. I’m going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life.”

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