Bulls veterans cool as ice in mentoring on and off the court

Thad Young and Garrett Temple are contributing to the maturation of the Bulls’ core, and Temple also has proved to be of extreme value from a contract standpoint.

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“[Garrett Temple is] a guy who has a lot of experience in terms of giving his wisdom to a lot of younger players, investing time in the younger players, trying to talk to the younger players,’’ Bulls  coach Billy Donovan said.

“[Garrett Temple is] a guy who has a lot of experience in terms of giving his wisdom to a lot of younger players, investing time in the younger players, trying to talk to the younger players,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.

Paul Beaty/AP

Bulls fans really didn’t need a reminder of the bad old days.

When a TV camera caught reserve Cristiano Felicio putting an ice cube down the back of Adam Mokoka’s jersey during a timeout, which he did several weeks ago, it was not only a snapshot of how business used to be conducted within the organization but a slap in the face.

If the Bulls can get in all 72 regular-season games — a big if with the coronavirus wreaking havoc with the schedule — the seldom-used Felicio will make about $105,000 per game to be the ice-cube bandit.

A product of former general manager Gar Forman’s attempts to prove he was the smartest man in the room, Felicio was rewarded with a four-year, $32 million deal in 2017 based on a few overhyped moments in games and practices.

Garrett Temple, the lone purchase by executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas in the shortened offseason, is an example of how the new regime is evaluating talent before spending. He gave Temple a $4.7 million deal.

And Temple has been a big-time mentor, an anchor for a bench that has been giving opponents headaches on most nights and a key player for the closing unit in tight games.

Money well spent is an understatement.

“I’ve always had great respect for Garrett, even going back to his time at LSU when I was at Florida coaching against him,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “The first thing that stands out is he’s a very, very classy professional guy who comes ready and will do anything that is asked of him for the benefit of the team. He’s a guy who has a lot of experience in terms of giving his wisdom to a lot of younger players, investing time in the younger players, trying to talk to the younger players.’’

Then again, Donovan can say the same about the two other veterans who anchor that second unit.

Thad Young and Otto Porter Jr. have played at a high level and also have become on-the-court coaches, and they’ve done it with open arms.

“The biggest thing with the young guys and the veteran guys, the young guys are listening,’’ Young said. “They’re taking in the things that we’re doing when we get out there on the court. They’re seeing how we move the ball. They’re seeing how we pick apart defenses and get easy reads just by moving the basketball and passing and cutting. So they’re taking those things and applying it to their games.

“Obviously, the young guys are the core pieces of our team, and they’re gonna make us go. So we want to put them in the best position possible, and I think that’s what’s been happening.’’

It has been happening, and it needed to.

The starters’ average age is 21.6 with 3.4 years of experience. Zach LaVine is the oldest at 25 and is in his seventh season. 

The average age of the three “old guys’’ is 31 with 11 years of experience. So if it resembles a babysitting job at times for the vets, it’s kind of because it is.

“Yeah, they’ve been really important to us, obviously,’’ starting forward Lauri Markkanen said. “Off the court, they’re talking to us a lot and just trying to help us.

“There are nights that the starting lineup is not playing great. Hopefully, we can limit those, but that’s just basketball. That’s going to happen. So it’s nice to have that deep bench for us. That just shows that these guys are professionals.’’

No ice cubes needed.

NOTE: Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison returned to practice Wednesday after testing positive for the coronavirus. As long as there are no setbacks, they’re expected to be available for the game Friday.

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