Ryan Arcidiacono has this annoying little flaw. He often doesn’t get out of the way when you think he’s supposed to, like Saturday in the United Center, when the Cleveland Cavaliers with 13 seconds left in the game lined up a play to go at Arcidiacono for a win. Arcidiacono forced rookie Collin Sexton into a miss and Jabari Parker followed up with a block on Sexton’s second effort to insure the Bulls 99-98 victory.
“I love all my teammates, especially Archie,” said Parker. “He plays hard, and that’s the person I aspire to be. I look up to him a lot.”
Arcidiacono also was supposed to get out of the way two years ago when no NBA team chose to select him in the 2016 draft, when he was waived in training camp by the San Antonio Spurs and spent the season in the G-league. And then when he tried to go play in Italy the deal fell through and he ended up with the Windy City Bulls. An NBA player? Nice kid, tries hard, but, really? This is the NBA.
Well, Arcidiacono not only got there with the Bulls this season, but Saturday the 6-2 point guard started his first NBA game, set a career high with 15 points making three of four three pointers and had as big an impact on the game as any of his teammates, recording a team best plus/minus game rating.
“Ryan was awesome,” agreed Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “He was the best plus/minus guy we had, a plus-11. And he shot it well. He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now. He’s our best talker out there on the floor right now with Bobby (Portis) on the bench. He was really good all across the board.”
Arcidiacono’s development and improvement, as unlikely as it’s seemed, is one of the feel good stories of the NBA and another encouraging G-league narrative, that if you commit yourself to compete and improve, even you can be an NBA player. Well, not quite everyone. But no one thought Chicagoan Alfonzo McKinnie was an NBA player. But with stints at Windy City and the Toronto G-league franchise, McKinnie is now a vital player in the rotation of the champion Golden State Warriors. Most believed when Arcidiacono made that game winning pass to Kris Jenkins for Villanova’s 2016 NCAA championship, the hard working little guard was going to have some great stories to tell his insurance clients.
Look, nice story, but let’s get serious. It’s the league of LeBron and KD and, OK, Steph, but did you see how he shoots?
Arcidiacono had herniated disc surgery in high school and finally made second team all-East as a senior. Second team? He never averaged more than 12.5 points in college and not double figures in Summer League. Summer League? C’mon kid, you almost could hear the NBA guys saying, you’re in the way.
Which is perhaps the best thing about Ryan Arcidiacono. He doesn’t accept assumptions or defeat. So he fell in love with Hoffman Estates.
“I embraced it fully,” Arcidiacono says about his time with the Windy City Bulls. “It’s an opportunity to be seen by a lot of teams. I knew I was spending most of my time there, so I wanted to see if I could keep improving my game and just try to contribute when I was up here. But at the end of the day, I thought, ‘You are just playing basketball for a living. So why not make the most out of it.’”
It’s not the attitude of some G-league players who resent the circumstances. But the G-league is becoming a vital feeder for the NBA, and Arcidiacono is one of the prime examples.
“You definitely have your fair share of guys who think that (they shouldn’t be there),” Arcidiacono agreed. “But it’s more about embracing it and making the most of it. Because if you have one foot out of the door while you are there you’re not going to get what you can out of it and improve.
“I liked it a lot,” said Arcidiacono, who is now 24. “I got my foot in the door with an NBA team. I think the league itself is a good transition from college to the NBA and a professional life-style. It definitely fit me. Charlie (Henry, coach) worked on my shooting a ton with (assistant) Jannero Pargo. I was with Fred all summer, coach Nate (Loenser). They really tried to emphasize things in my shot, to shoot with confidence and put me in situations to be successful. They helped me extend my range and have that solid base. I really learned.
“I couldn’t really envision this from a year ago,” Arcidiacono admitted. “I feel I’m a confident person and I felt I could play in this league. So I’ve been chipping away at it. A player like me—I don’t want to beat on myself about the athleticism I don’t have—but it’s probably a little bit tougher (to make the NBA). So you grind away and take it day by day and just try to find the little things you can do to help a team in a game, in practice, trying to help in any way you can.
“I never took it as ‘No one wants me,’” Arcidiacono said. “I just tried to get better. From where I was last year, it shows anything can happen. So stick to it and try to make the most out of it and not give up on that NBA dream. If someone like me can make it here and have an impact, it shows you can be a leader without playing a lot, that you can help a team without playing a lot, which I felt I did last year and this year and this summer, and you gain respect. Whether you are playing a lot or a little, you can still be the most vocal and the hardest worker.
“I try to be the hardest playing guy on the floor no matter what the situation is,” Arcidiacono says. “If everyone could do that I wouldn’t have a job.”
Something for everyone to think about.