Jabari Parker is back in the United Center playing basketball and he's smiling.
A powerful second quarter dunk in the face of Lauri Markkanen probably helped, as well.
I'm happy, I would say," Parker told reporters Saturday before his Wizards played his former team, the Bulls. "I haven't smiled in a while, but it's great."
It's not exactly the way Parker, a Chicago native, thought it would work out when he signed with the Bulls last July as a free agent. The one-time overall No. 2 NBA draft pick from Simeon High School and Duke had what was perhaps best described as a bizarre and unusual experience.
He was initially expected to start at small forward. Then he was to come off the bench. Then he started when Markkanen and Bobby Portis were injured. Then he was taken out of the rotation in December and didn't play, and then he was back playing in January until being traded last week along with Portis for Otto Porter.
"It was great," Parker insisted about his brief time as a Bull. "I love my experience here just because I met some great people. I love my teammates, got a chance to get a great group of relationships with my teammates. And I really mean that. I love those guys. That (the Bulls) was somebody that wanted me from the beginning. It wasn't all about money because not a lot of people knew my financial situation. People only knew about the Bulls. I just wanted to be here for the city and try to be here as much as I can for the city.
"I handled everything I could with the situation I had," Parker said about the circumstances. "I made the best of it and more importantly the man upstairs knows my heart and that's what I care about the most. I'm still from the city. I'm still from Chicago. So I'm always going to come back. That doesn't change as much. I'm rooted here. I don't forget where I come from. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. If it wasn't mean to be, then, hey, that's OK. No love lost."
Though Parker said he was surprised about the way his tenure with the Bulls played out after coming from an improving Milwaukee team and with his knee injuries healed.
"Definitely, because I played more minutes on the No. 1 team," said Parker of the current Bucsks. "In Milwaukee, I played a lot more minutes and was a big factor in that team, especially in the playoffs. So just coming here and playing for the Bulls, it was just very surprising, because I thought I'd be utilized, just knowing the circumstances or where I came from."
"I'm still from the city. I'm still from Chicago. So I'm always going to come back. That doesn't change as much. I'm rooted here. I don't forget where I come from."
- Jabari Parker speaking to the media before Saturday's game
Wizards coach Scott Brooks says he's excited to see Parker with the Wizards.
"There's a lot of criticism about a lot of players and good players," Brooks said about talk of a lack of defense with Parker. "You just always judge a guy with what you see. He competed (for us). He did everything we asked. He earned some extra minutes. He's going to have a nice role with us. I like his IQ and vision on the floor. He's a shotmaker. Around the paint, he can post up smaller players. His three-point shooting isn't great but it's not broke."
Parker, meanwhile, insists he moves on from the Bulls with a pure heart. And that booming driving left handed power dunk over Markkanen.
"How I'm looking at this situation (in Washington) is I'm looking forward to it," said Parker. "That's all I can do right now and that's how I've been doing it so far with the situation, just looking forward and keep improving. That's where I'm at. Just trying to focus on getting better because it's up to me to keep on improving. And it may change, it may not, but that's not important. That doesn't get in the way of who I want to be."