Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
PORTLAND, Ore. --- As Julian Phillips talked to reporters following the Chicago Bulls’ victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday night, Patrick Williams, sitting two lockers over, took a video of the moment on his phone.
Minutes earlier, in a postgame interview on NBC Sports Chicago, both Williams and Dalen Terry interrupted Phillips’ answers to yell celebratory encouragement at him.
“The whole locker room loves him because when you have his energy, it becomes contagious,” Ayo Dosunmu said.
Phillips authored his biggest minutes of his rookie season Sunday night, scoring a career-high 11 points with two rebounds, one assist and an emphatic block on Malcolm Brogdon. More important, Phillips looked unfazed by the moment, called into action when Williams’ left foot injury sidelined him.
“I don’t mean this critically of him, but he plays in a very small box. He does the things he knows he can do,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s a really good cutter. He’s really good athletically on the glass. He’s obviously a terrific athlete.
“I think the thing I’ve been most impressed with from summer league to now has been his ability to pick things up very quickly. He has a very high IQ. He instinctively knows when to cut. He finds his way into plays. He's a very conscientious decision-maker. I don’t look at him as a high-mistake player.”
Indeed, Phillips stepped into open shots without hesitation. He moved his feet defensively. He cut into open spaces and also almost scored on an acrobatic, over-the-head putback at the third-quarter buzzer.
And through it all, Phillips reacted with the quiet and respectful demeanor that seems fitting for a son raised by two parents with military backgrounds.
“He’s pretty stoic in general,” Alex Caruso said. “He’s trying to be a sponge, trying to learn. He’s doing a good job of taking everything in stride. He knows the game and does little stuff within the game to try to help us win.”
Caruso and fellow veteran Torrey Craig, in street clothes, could be seen during virtually every stoppage offering pointers and instruction to the second-round pick.
“I just tried to play as hard as I can and help the team as much as I could,” Phillips said.
Mission accomplished. And with Williams’ future uncertain with testing to come Monday in Chicago, Phillips’ opportunity could continue. The Bulls have a back-to-back set of games starting Tuesday at home.
“He’s just a hard worker. He comes with a joy. Anytime you have someone like that, it’s always great to be around,” Dosunmu said. “He’s chill. He has a knack for getting better.”