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Former Bull Daniel Gafford nears a Wilt Chamberlain record

Former Bull Daniel Gafford nears a Wilt Chamberlain record originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Daniel Gafford is a career 70 percent shooter, mostly focused on putbacks and dunks and alley-oops. But what the former Chicago Bulls center is doing now is something special.

Gafford's 9-for-9 performance in the Dallas Mavericks' 127-92 blowout victory over the Bulls on Monday night at the United Center ran his consecutive field-goal streak to 28 straight over four games. That's only seven shy of Wilt Chamberlain's NBA record from 1967.

"I tell people any accolade around my name is a good thing for me," Gafford said. "But at the end of the day, I just want to win."

Gafford didn't do much of that during his 74-game tenure in Chicago, which spanned 1-1/2 seasons.

Drafted in the second round by the previous managerial regime, Gafford averaged 5.1 points and 1.3 blocks in 43 games for the 2019-20 Bulls that went 22-43 in the pandemic-shortened season. The current managerial regime than traded Gafford and Chandler Hutchison in March 2021 as part of the three-team trade with the Celtics and Wizards that netted the Bulls Daniel Theis, Javonte Green, Troy Brown Jr. and cash.

"I kind of fell out of love with the game," Gafford said of his time in Chicago. "I had to kind of re-evaluate myself when I got traded to Washington. I took a step back and figured out how to bring myself back into loving the game. It was a lot when it came to me mentally here in Chicago. I wanted to be better than I was."

Asked if the losing played into this dynamic, Gafford looked inward.

"I think it was just me wanting to be the player that I wanted to be and I wasn't making any step to be that player," Gafford said. "I wanted to be way better than I was playing. I would say I was being lazy for sure. I had to take a step into the responsibility of being a better player off and on the court, taking care of my body and my mental."

Gafford played solid for the Wizards but again endured a lot of losing. In just 13 games with the Mavericks, it's clear he has found a home.

"It was just like I was already part of the mold," Gafford said of fitting in with the Mavericks. "I feel I've come here and locked into everything that I needed to lock into."

Gafford admitted he took a little extra joy in playing so well against the Bulls, finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, including an emphatic stop of a Julian Phillips' dunk. But he also said he has love for those with the franchise still here when he played here, saying they treated him like family.

Gafford is a perfect fit alongside Luka Dončić and the Mavericks' high-powered ball movement, taking full advantage of lobs. Asked how he would stop a pick-and-roll featuring Dončić, Gafford smiled.

"Just pray at the end of the day," he said. "That's pretty much how it was every time I played against him. Now playing with him, man, I see why it was so hard to kind of stop most of the stuff we tried to throw at him. It's always good to be on the other side of it."

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