He may not ever average 20 points per game, and Steph Curry isn’t going to be copying his shooting stroke. He’s not going to remind you of Dr. J. swooping in to the basket or Kyrie Irving with his handle. But Bulls second-year swingman Dalen Terry is getting a handle on things in this Bulls 1-1 Summer League start that has him realistically eying an opportunity in the upcoming season’s playing rotation.
The Bulls continue their Summer League schedule 9 p.m. (CT) Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings.
“I got here playing defense,” reminds Terry. “My defensive ability hasn’t dropped. I definitely liked my defense on both marquee players, the marquee matchups (in the first two games against lottery pick Gradey Dick and Memphis’ Jake LaRavia). I felt like I took the challenge. I feel like that’s what gets me on the floor, and then the other things keep me on the floor, making the right decisions, hitting open shots, being a good teammate, playing with energy. It’s not just one thing. Being versatile keeps you on the floor and makes you a player in this league.
“So I feel like that’s where I am the best, picking up the defensive intensity, getting in transition and making the right plays, energetic plays,” said Terry. “I feel like when Alex (Caruso) and Lonzo (Ball) were playing together, those were two players to watch and what I can help do.
“I know there are a lot of people talking (about my offense), but I’m here to get reps,” Terry added. “I didn’t score a lot for whatever reason (the first two games). But I’m mostly here to get reps. I’m not here to chase a certain thing, but to work on what I need to work on. Getting it on film so I can see for myself what I need to do, get back to the drawing board when the Summer League is over.”
Terry hasn’t been sharp on offense, where the public’s eye generally focuses.
Terry is leading the team in minutes played at 31.3 in his Bulls boot camp Summer League force feeding. He’s second to Javon Freeman-Liberty in scoring at 13.5 per game, but shooting just 25.7 percent overall and 30.8 percent on threes. He’s averaging four rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals.
It’s been a fuzzy offensive picture for the former first-round draft pick, though not unlike our disappointing introduction to a former Bulls first round selection who didn’t look like he had any basketball skills but hustle. Seven footer Joakim Noah shot the ball so poorly it was mocked as endangering those close like a tornado. He averaged less than a block a game his first season and barely more than one assist.
Run the court and play defense, he was instructed. A motor is a skill.
And then Noah grew into one of the top centers in franchise history, a league MVP candidate and one of the most popular players in team history. That’s a long way and a wish and a hope for someone like Terry. But the 6-7 forward who turns 21 Wednesday could prove exceptionally valuable to the Bulls this season with the departure of Derrick Jones Jr. and uncertainty surrounding Ayo Dosunmu and Javonte Green.
The Bulls Tuesday announced the signing of free agent guard Jevon Carter, a physical shooting guard who for now seems like he’ll contest with Coby White for starting point guard duties. The Bulls are believed to be adding a free agent forward in the Carter profile soon. But that still leaves a possible place for someone like Terry to bring the energy and disruption that Bulls coach Billy Donovan parlayed into a top defense and league record with Ball and Caruso.
Terry isn’t as accomplished as Ball. But Donovan likes to play small to produce turnovers and transition scoring. Terry’s percentage should improve shooting layups.
Though Terry was a credible three-point shooter in college, 36.4 percent his second season at the University of Arizona. So he’s also convinced he will be soon with a lot more net than air.
“I have to be myself,” he was saying after practice Monday at the UNLV recreation center. “Being myself is what got me here. Playing the right way, getting everyone involved, hit open shots, play defense. I feel a lot of guys don’t have the same versatility I have. I feel like I can fit a lot of different teams. With the construction of our roster, I feel I can do so many different things.
“Offensively (these two Summer League games), I could have made some better decisions,” Terry admitted about some out of control drives. “I think I was ahead of myself a little bit. But, man, the shots are going to fall. That’s all I’ve been working in this summer. When I lock into my shot, it’s pretty good just about every time. It’s when I’m not getting ready for my shot, being lazy with it. I’ve got to stay on myself and be disciplined when it comes to it.”
Which was some of the advice Terry said he’s been getting from teammate DeMar DeRozan, and in Summer League when DeRozan and Bulls teammates spoke to the summer campers.
“DeMar told me to go out and play free, show what I’ve been working on and don’t be afraid to mess up,” said Terry. “He said the second year always is better because even if you’re not playing your best, you get to go back and watch your film and then you know what you need to do to get yourself in the NBA. Rookie year you’re just antsy to get out there. Now you are finding out what translates and what is not going to translate.”
Which is the pat on the back and encouragement Terry gave rookie forward Julian Phillips, who looked confused in his Game 2 debut against Memphis. He had one basket and three turnovers in 24 minutes.
“I was talking to Julian after that and telling him to be confident and go with it,” Terry relayed. “I told him the same way they are talking about you is the same way they were talking about me, that defensive players might not be ready for the NBA. I told him you’ve got to show them why you should be here, be aggressive, go at it, be what you need and keep playing with confidence.”
It’s what Terry is doing despite the misgivings and misfires. And ready to begin making contributions.
“I love basketball,” Terry says. “It’s what makes me happy. Playing never discourages me or has a negative impact on my life. Being here and even just being able to get up and down. I know what I’ve gotten myself into, I know what time it is, I know what training camp is going to be like; not like when I was a rookie going in blind. There’s only so much they can tell you. You have to see for yourself. Now I know what I’m getting myself into and ready to be as prepared as possible. Bring that positive energy, be a player who changes the energy in the arena on and off the court. Energize.”
Just like someone else we know and really grew to love.
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