Back from injury, Bulls swingman Denzel Valentine wants to prove he has staying power

After sitting out all of last season with an ankle injury, Denzel Valentine wants to show he has staying power.

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One of Denzel Valentine’s biggest goals this season is to prove that he can remain healthy.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Though this is a pivotal season for Denzel Valentine, the 6-6 swingman is keeping his goals for the 2019-20 campaign simple: Stay healthy and help the Bulls make it to the playoffs.

After sitting out all of last season with an ankle injury, Valentine wants to show he has staying power.

“I just have to prove that I can be healthy and that I’m back looking good, feeling good,” Valentine said. “Play hard 82 games, definitely want to do that. I definitely want to contribute and do whatever I can.”

Contract? That’ll come in time. Right now, Valentine, who could be a restricted free agent come summer, has to show how he can be a valuable asset to the Bulls’ secondary unit.

Valentine prides himself on being a multi-faceted player, who can score, rebound, defend and handout assists. After receiving spotty playing time during his rookie season, Valentine showed promise during his second season in the league. He averaged 10.2 points off the bench and his 38.6 percent shooting from deep made his one of the Bulls’ most promising three-point shooters.

Then, his ankle failed him.

Watching last season from the bench was agonizing at times for Valentine. He wanted to be on the court and help his teammates. But the off time gave him an opportunity to fully heal from an ankle problem that had bothered him during his first two seasons in the league.

Now at 100 percent, Valentine is ready to do some damage.

“I’m feeling great,” Valentine said. “I’m feeling healthy, I worked my butt off to get to where I’m at now, so I’m just really excited and anxious about this year.”

To clarify: It’s a good anxious he has.

With a big season ahead of him, Valentine joined the Sun-Times for this week’s chat room.

Everyone at media day was talking about how this team is going to the playoffs this season. Other than the obvious personnel changes, what feels different about this team this year?

Denzel Valentine: “I feel like we got a little more experience with everybody. We’re really deep this year. I think we’re all going to come in and compete. We’re all competitive guys, we’re all hard working guys, everybody is pretty much a high character guy so that all leaks into a winning team and so the sky’s the limit for us.”

How did you unwind this offseason?

DV: “I went to Hawaii for the first time, took my family there. We spent about a week there in Maui and that was cool. We’re probably going to do that every year hopefully.”

What did you do there?

DV: “Just kicked it with the family, spent some time on the beach. We stayed in a resort so we just kind of kicked back, did somethings, went on a boat, we just had fun. It was cool.”

Your brother, Drew, is entering his third season as an assistant coach at Loyola. What’s it like to have him here in the city with you?

DV: “It’s great because it brings all my family here and it’s kind of like a family thing. He goes to my games, I go to his games, and it’s kind of like when we grew up — go to his games, go to my games type of deal. So it just brings the family together and with him being here, he gives me advice, and he’s a coach, so he’s coaching me and critiquing me, too, so that helps out, too.”

Is that ever annoying to have your brother pick apart your game?

DV: “No, it’s all helpful. I never look at it like that because he always has my best interest at heart, so it’s actually a blessing to have him here.”

What’s something you do on the side to preoccupy your time?

DV: “I make music on the side.”

Do you have a Soundcloud or something you want to plug?

DV: “Not yet. I was planning on doing that within the next couple of years — just depending on what’s going on, but I’ve got a studio at home, I’m working on music and stuff.”

Do you produce it and everything?

DV: “No, I just rap.”

Can you give us a line right now?

DV: “I might sneak a song or two during the year something like that.”

If you could have any musician be on a track with you, who would you have?

DV: “Uhh Drake. Definitely Drake.”

What’s your favorite Drake song?

“Oh, that’s a tough question. He’s got a lot of good songs. ... My favorite Drake song, I’d probably say ‘Furthest Thing.’”

If you could only have one streaming service for the rest of your life, which one would you pick?

DV: “Probably Apple Music. I definitely need my music in my life.”

Are you watching anything on Netflix right now?

DV: “I just got done with ‘Stranger Things,’ I like that show, ‘Explained,’ too. It talks about everything, that show’s decent. I’ve got to come up with a new show to watch. I’m into ‘Power,’ too, though.”

What’s your go-to cheat meal?

DV: ”Some chicken wings, sweet yams and mac ‘n cheese.”

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