The Chicago Bulls held their first NBA Summer League practice on Saturday, a spirited two-hour session in which Dalen Terry, their first-round pick, turned out to be the standout player.
“The only thing I’m going to say today about Dalen is that his teammates voted him the guy who competed the hardest,” Bulls summer league coach John Bryant said. “So that lets you know he’s going to be in the mix every time.”
Terry, the 18th pick last week, comes to Chicago with a reputation as an ultra-competitor who routinely makes game-winning plays. Although practices are closed to the media, Terry made a big impression at his first formal practice.
“I won a couple of games,” said Terry, smiling. “I can’t be voted most competitive and not win.”
It was Bulls forward Patrick Williams, practicing with the Summer League team before the event in Las Vegas, who voted for Terry. Bryant has deliberately turned everything in practice into a competition, even tracking down daily winners and player-chosen superlatives. Each day, Bryant stands before the group and asks someone to speak and vote for the best competitor of the day. Williams, who went toe-to-toe with Terry at times on Saturday, spoke up and quoted the rookie.
“It means everything,” said Terry. “I appreciate Pat for doing that. He gave me a little more confidence. He was a rookie last year and he’s been through what I’ve been through. For him to do that, it’s a wink and respect towards him. I appreciate that he said that.”
Terry wants to learn from more experienced teammates like Williams, but he’s also here to push them.
“He’s been in the league, so I give him my respect,” Terry said of Williams. “But I am going to compete. I’m not going back now.”
Patrick Williams practicing today with the Bulls summer league team. pic.twitter.com/0kyvXJ9uyB
— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) July 2, 2022
Terry learned an early lesson: Williams’s professional demeanor.
“He behaves like he’s been here before,” Terry said. “Obviously he’s here for (some time) now, he behaves like I would.
“If I hadn’t watched basketball, I’d probably say he’s been here five years. I’m going to take notes on that and I’m going to try to do things in that area.”
When asked why he felt good about his performance on Saturday, Terry proudly pointed out his versatility.
“It was all over the floor,” he said of how it unfolded. “I was mentioning it. she was bouncing. He was getting the ball out, putting up screens. I really can’t give you the part. He was doing a lot.”
But defense was where Terry was most pleased.
“I was playing defense today,” he said. “He was talking, letting guys know that he was here on the floor, just trying to live up to the hype when it comes to being a leader, being competitive.”
As the Bulls’ only first-round pick on the NBA Summer League roster, next week’s event could be Terry’s showcase. Only that doesn’t sound like the way he’s wired.
“I really think Dalen, first and foremost, is thinking, ‘How can I help a teammate?’ Bryant said. “That’s the only thing you’re going to hear me come in here and say, ‘How can I help a teammate?’ Because if he does that, he’ll be able to re-space the court and the ball will find him. Or if he’s in a defensive position and can help a teammate, he could put a hand on the ball and then be rewarded with a layup.”
Bryant couldn’t pinpoint a specific moment of Terry jumping on Saturday. It seems that he had a lot.
“You felt it every step of the way,” Bryant said.
Experienced players leading the way
Ayo Dosunmu joined Williams for intermittent practices with the Bulls’ Summer League team, and both are receiving praise for their growth, poise and leadership in this environment.
“Patrick looks like a man,” Bryant said. “He looks like a third-year player. He stands out. His body is ready for the NBA. He just looks like a grown man.
“There’s a feeling of, ‘I belong here, I’m a third-year player,’ and he behaves like one. Just like Ayo. Ayo looked great. The command of him, the presence of him. He played like an All-Rookie player and let everyone in the gym know it.”
Asked what Williams and Dosunmu need to work on this summer to come back better next season, Bryant said they both need to continue to play top-level players every day first.
“That’s why they’re here this week,” Bryant said. “There is a lot of individual development. But they get game replays every day against NBA players and fringe NBA players. That alone, in our building, in front of our coaching staff and Coach (Billy) Donovan, they’re going to get better. And so we just want those replays of the game.”
Marko Simonović increases his volume
Marko Simonović, a second-round pick in 2020, is another name to watch in Las Vegas.
He was drafted 44th overall and stayed in Europe for one season before joining the Bulls. The 22-year-old forward put up staggering statistical output (averaging 17 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists) in the G League with the Windy City Bulls during his rookie season, but he never received significant minutes in the NBA. He appeared in just nine contests with the Bulls, totaling just 35 minutes.
This is shaping up to be a significant second season for Simonović, if only because of the front office’s decision on his future with the franchise. For now, all the talk about Simonović is how he has transformed his body. He looks noticeably bigger, fuller than the skinny guy who made his Summer League debut last season.
“He’s bigger than me and I pride myself on being a big, fit guy,” Bryant said. “His shoulders look like those of a grown man. So he has been working. He has been doing something. He has been eating at least. But he looks great. That was something that we had asked him (for him to do) is to work on his body. Now it’s just game replays. What does he do, how can he find a consistent role with us, with the Bulls, and then really do it every day?
another ball of energy
Justin Lewis, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Marquette, signed a two-way deal with the Bulls immediately after going undrafted last week. His spirit and enthusiasm have been compared to Terry’s.
“I’m excited for Justin Lewis,” Bryant said. “That man comes in with a lot of energy every day.”
Bryant praised Lewis’s versatility, saying he can protect just about every position and adding that he’s excited to see what he’ll do in Las Vegas.
“He’s very versatile,” Bryant said. “I think we can put it in a lot of different places. But the guy comes with a smile, he’s always in the gym. I probably had to kick him out of the gym, I don’t remember what night it was, I was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a long week and we haven’t started playing. He is just here and the energy of him is very contagious, almost like DT”
Bryant grateful for coaching opportunity
After approaching the media, Bryant made a confession. He was nervous.
“Maybe a little,” he said.
Bryant has never been a Summer League coach, and the demands of being a head coach are unfamiliar to him.
“Coach (Billy) Donovan, AK (Artūras Karnišovas) and Marc (Eversley) gave me this opportunity and it’s amazing,” he said. “I have never talked so much in my life. So I have a cough drop right now. I think I need to do a better job of handing it over to my offensive and defensive coordinators, Paul Miller and Chris Kent, to save myself a little bit more.”
However, what Bryant made very clear is that he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself.
“Honestly, personally, I want to get out of this to empower others,” he said. “This is not about me. I told the staff and crew from day 1 that this is not about me. I know my name says head coach. But I’m here to empower them and I’m here to help players improve.”
(Photo of Dalen Terry at the NBA Draft Combine in May: David Banks / USA Today)