Denzel Valentine looks to re-establish himself as reliable rotation piece for Bulls

K.C. Johnson

When players shuttle from station to station at Media Day, they sometimes hold up a piece of paper with their names on it to help identify themselves for photographers.

Denzel Valentine didn't have to carry his nametag around all afternoon Monday. But he could've.

The fourth-year swingman is the only Bull besides Cristiano Felicio to play during the 2017 first-round playoff loss to the Celtics and survive the rebuild that began that June with the trade of Jimmy Butler. But he's also a somewhat forgotten man after missing last season to reconstructive left ankle surgery.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

"I have to get back into game shape," Valentine said. "But I'm 100 percent healthy."

With a lack of proven depth behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr., Valentine has a huge opportunity to contribute if he stays healthy. Remember, this is a player who averaged 10.2 points and 3.2 assists in just 27.2 minutes while shooting 38.6% from 3-point range in 2017-18.

"I'm very confident that I'm going to take that to the next level," he said. "Sitting out, I think I'm more mentally tough. I gained a lot of experience watching. I feel I'm a more mature and confident player now. I'm excited."

The same surgeon who helped put an end to the ankle issues that plagued Stephen Curry early in his career operated on Valentine. Valentine said he'll work closely with the training staff to monitor his workload during training camp, which begins Tuesday.

But Valentine went hard the final week of voluntary September workouts without issue and oozed confidence about what the upcoming season holds.

"Dr. (Robert) Anderson did a good job of making everything feel good. I'm feeling as good as I've felt as an NBA player," Valentine said. "I'm just anxious to get started and playing again.

"It was extremely hard sitting out. I love basketball. I've been playing since I was 3 years old. To have it taken from me for a whole season was definitely bad. I appreciate the game a lot. It's a blessing I'm back and able to play now."

In other injury-related news, executive vice president John Paxson confirmed second-year wing Chandler Hutchison will "be out for a little bit" following his second hamstring injury of the offseason. Paxson also revealed that free-agent signee Luke Kornet will miss at least the first week of camp with turf toe.

Wendell Carter Jr., who underwent July surgery to repair a core muscle injury, said he's ready for camp.

"I feel like I'm at 100 percent now," Carter said. "I feel a lot better than I have been the last five, six years. So I feel like the surgery was definitely a necessity. I've been on the court a little bit trying to build back up my strength, get my conditioning right, get ready for training camp. But I definitely feel I'm ready for the season."

Denzel Valentine looks to re-establish himself as reliable rotation piece for Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

What to Read Next