Bulls’ Javonte Green ready to defend whomever he’s asked
Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball have headlined the Bulls’ defensive turnaround this season, but reserves such as Green and Derrick Jones Jr. are unsung heroes. They do the dirty work and often do it out of position.
DENVER — Bulls forward Javonte Green doesn’t just try dunking on opposing players with authority; he wants to put them on a prayer list.
But the same aggressiveness he displays when he takes the ball to the rim is the way he likes to play defense, too. Even more impressive is whom the 6-5 Green is asked to defend.
Green and Derrick Jones Jr. are wing players who have spent a good part of the Bulls’ road trip guarding not only opposing wings and guards but centers, too.
‘‘Position-less basketball, right?’’ Green said Friday in explaining why he has embraced that challenge. ‘‘That’s our job. We’re not here to completely shut down anybody; we’re here to do our part in making life hard on [opposing big men] while [center Nikola Vucevic] is out. That makes our other guys have an easier job on the offensive end.
‘‘We’re just trying to slow opposing big guys down, put some wear-and-tear on them as the game goes on, so maybe it comes easier for us come the fourth quarter. We think we’re a very well-conditioned team, so we’re trying to wear guys down.’’
Green’s importance defensively can’t be understated. While guards Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball are the Bulls’ defensive headliners, Green is a player who does the dirty work because of whom he’s asked to guard.
Guard Zach LaVine praised Green yet again last week, pointing out the energy he brings to the court. In Green’s eyes, that means he’s accomplishing his mission.
‘‘That’s always been my role — just bring the energy,’’ Green said. ‘‘That’s what Coach wants from me. Bring it on both sides of the ball, and I take pride in that.’’
A few other things he takes pride in? Green buys most of the shoes he wears on the court and couldn’t dunk until his junior year in high school, so he wants to make up for lost time.
‘‘Since I could dunk, that’s what I try to do,’’ Green said. ‘‘I still think dunks bring that electricity. I didn’t start dunking until my junior year in high school. I’m not going to say everybody around me was dunking, but I felt behind. So once I started dunking, I just haven’t wanted to stop. I try and dunk everything.’’
It will be interesting to see the kind of playing time Green gets when Vucevic returns. Tony Bradley will move back to the bench, but will Green go back to his starting role over Caruso? Coach Billy Donovan wasn’t ready to address that, especially with some uncertainty about when Vucevic will get out of the NBA’s health-and-safety protocol.
Green insisted he will be ready either way.
‘‘I’m here to do whatever I’m asked,’’ he said.
According to veteran forward DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls player who’s usually the most vocal in film sessions when it comes to breaking down strategy is Caruso. That’s why DeRozan can see him having a second career in the NBA someday.
‘‘Alex will definitely be a head coach in the NBA after he finishes playing,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘You’d think he’s been in the league 15 years the way he speaks about the game, gives advice. He’s the loudest voice in the locker room at times, especially in film, and that’s big. He’s very experienced.’’