Denzel Valentine’s career with the Bulls was in a bit of a different state at this time last season.
Basically, it was on life support.
The 2016 lottery pick was buried in former coach Jim Boylen’s doghouse, only getting a few minutes in mop-up time or because of an injury. He sounded like a player who was preparing to be elsewhere.
Fast-forward to Saturday, and not only did Valentine survive the regime change by getting a $4.6 million one-year deal to stay, but he has been earning valuable minutes off the bench with new coach Billy Donovan appreciating his skills in a different way.
“Man, I actually do think about that,’’ Valentine said. “It’s just funny because at this time last year, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Granted, it’s different seasons. I was in and out of the lineup. It’s just crazy that things come full circle.
“You never know what can happen in this business. All you can do is bring a positive mindset and work hard every day. That’s what I try to do, no matter the situation.
‘‘Obviously, it can be hard if you’re not playing or stuff like I went through last year. But I just have to control what I can control, and the rest will take care of itself.’’
Donovan has played the versatile Valentine just under 20 minutes a game and has kept him ahead of Chandler Hutchison in the rotation, so he obviously sees value.
“Denzel likes playing in pick-and-roll because I think he likes getting his passing into the game,’’ Donovan said. “He’s a good decision-maker. He also can score. He has generated and created a lot of shots for guys, so when the ball has been in his hands, he has more often than not made good decisions.’’
Big man Daniel Gafford will have plenty of people in his ear as he tries to soften the blow of the Bulls losing Wendell Carter Jr. for the next month, and prominent among those offering advice will be Carter himself.
The team announced earlier this week that his quadriceps injury was more severe than first thought, and while Carter waits to be re-evaluated in about three weeks, Gafford was expected to be one of the main fill-in options.
The two always have maintained a good relationship, and that wasn’t about to change.
“It started ever since we found out I was going to be starting for him when he was out the very first game,’’ Gafford said of his frequent conversations with Carter. “He’s always in my ear; he’s always giving me pointers and certain things to do when I’m on the floor. That helps me out a lot.
‘‘I do it for him, he does it for me, so we basically have each other’s backs when it comes to that.’’
With voting for the All-Star Game starting this week, guard Zach LaVine was taking the high road in his petitioning.
“I would much rather be on a winning team and making it to the playoffs than any individual accolade,’’ LaVine said. “But once you start getting to that level, everything comes with it. So I understand who I am and what I am, and everything will fall in place once we start winning.’’