LAS VEGAS — It’s the second year Bulls assistant John Bryant has taken the reigns for the Summer League team, and his mantra has remained the same: Embrace the opportunity, be the most connected and compete. If the young guys can do that, they’ll win.
And that’s exactly what happened during the 83-74 win over the Toronto Raptors in their Summer League opener on Friday evening.
“Did we embrace the opportunity? They all said yes,” Bryant said. “Were we the most connected team? They all said yes. And then I asked, did we compete? They all said yes. And I said winning is a byproduct of all three of those”
Summer League is an opportunity for players (and coaches) to stretch their games, test their limits and showcase skills they may otherwise not have a chance to at the NBA level.
With all eyes on second year player Dalen Terry, that area goes beyond any on-court skill. Terry is focused on leadership, guiding the Summer Bulls and working on his ability to command the game. So even though he struggled from the field (10 points on 4-of-14 shooting) both he and Bryant were happy with what he was able to provide.
Terry notably struggled with ball control, getting all the way to the rim and finishing through contact. But as he learns to read the game better, things will slow down to where his physical gifts and passing instincts can take over.
“It’s all growth,” Terry said. “I’ve had mistakes before. Just slowing down a little bit. I’m the marquee player on their scouting report. I gotta know that when I change directions, they’re coming. I know that when I come off the screens, they’re up on the screen, they’re putting their hands up, they’re active. So I just got to pick my spots. When to score, when to be a guard, when to be a leader.”
Typically, you want to see second year players, especially high draft picks, really take over in these Summer League games. Show the added strength, skill and basketball IQ they have accumulated over their rookie season.
For his potential fit on the NBA team, Terry needs to be a three-and-D specialist who can attack closeouts and make the right reads. That’s a much different role than the point guard responsibilities he has taken on this Summer, so even though he had some bad turnovers and wasn’t able to break defenders down off the dribble, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to bust.
“It’s about growth,” Bryant said. “Can we grow from this game to the next? And the next?” The only thing I’ve talked to him about was how to be a leader. When he’s got the ball in his hands, he’s got to get us organized.”
Terry finished 1-of-4 on threes, had four assists to three turnovers, but contributed in the form of six rebounds, three steals, and lock down defense against Raptors lottery pick Gradey Dick.
Eventually, Terry came to the coaching staff, determined to shut down Raptors guard Markquis Nowell, who was dicing the Bulls up throughout.
“He came up to our staff. He said, ‘I want Nowell,'” Bryant explained. “And I was like, no, stay on Gradey Dick. And in the huddle, he said, ‘coach, I got him.’ So you’ve got to trust the player when he requests the player. I said it’s on you if he scores. He said, ‘I got you.’ I love that type of energy and effort and accountability to want to be great defensively.
So all in all, it wasn’t the dominant performance Bulls fans would have hoped to get out of last year’s draft pick, but there were certainly some parts to be excited about.
“I didn’t shoot it the best, I didn’t score it the best,” Terry admitted. “But I feel like when it comes to a leadership standpoint, getting everyone involved, I got an A+.”
Vegas is for the Vibes
Part of the Summer League allure is that the entire NBA world is jam packed into Thomas & Mack center in Las Vegas.
On Friday, that included Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, Patrick Williams and Carlik Jones.
For all the trade rumors and negativity around the team this summer, it was awesome to see these guys catch up.
“It’s all love. I talk to them guys pretty regularly. Pat and DeMar, I see them every other five days.”
Terry, of course, is using this as an opportunity to implement their feedback into his game.
“It’s all love,” Terry said. “I’m looking forward to talking to them, just seeing what I can get better on from their standpoint.”
Terry has been a part of the grueling DeRozan summer workout plan, along with Williams in Los Angeles. And it doesn’t seem any easier than it was last year.
“That’s a trick question,” Terry replied when asked if the DeRozan workout was more of a challenge than playing 32 minutes in a Summer League Game. “Y’all seen the video. I’m gonna let you figure that one out.”
Julian Phillips Misses Game 1
Just minutes prior to tip, Bulls PR notified reporters that Bulls rookie and 35th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft Julian Phillips would not be suiting up.
As a result of him not yet executing his contract agreement, he elected to be safe and sit this one out, out of an abundance of caution.
The contract should be finalized soon, but that hasn’t stopped Phillips from working out during practice. And his teammate Terry had high praise for the Bulls rookie.
“He’s super long,” Terry said. “Active. Real athletic. Me and him on the break would have been a scary sight.”
“The world is ahead of him. I see myself in him from last year.”
Justin Lewis Returns to Action
After tearing his ACL last October, Justin Lewis returned to action with a seven point, seven rebound game in 22 minutes against the Raptors.
It was great to see him back out there and looking spry.
“It says a lot about him as a man, as a player and his family, how he was raised,” Bryant said. “The road back was hard.”
Terry shared his enthusiasm for Lewis as well.
“I think the world of Justin,” he said. “Me and him were the same class in high school, coming out the same year I’ve been knowing him since High School. We were real tight already.”
“It’s your time to show what you missed. Don’t worry about messing up, it’s your first time playing. Don’t hold your standards too high. Just stay level headed and everything will be already.”
Lewis had a couple good looking drives and wasn’t afraid to get into the paint despite coming off the injury. A positive sign to be sure.
“It’s just one game,” Bryant said. “I’m telling you, by the end of this, he’s going to be much better.”
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