And then there were, heck, who knows anymore.
Denzel Valentine Wednesday joined those Bulls out injured for the remainder of the season—Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Antonio Blakeney, Paul Zipser maybe—with a "minor" surgical procedure, a so called "clean up" in his left knee. It was a similar procedure to one he had in college when he was out two weeks. Of course, as we know, minor surgery is surgery on someone else.
Valentine, meeting with reporters before Tuesday's game with Charlotte, didn't seem too concerned.
"I'm going to be able to walk out of the hospital, so it's going to be two weeks, three weeks," Valentine said. "I had the same thing done in college my senior year and I was back playing within two weeks. I missed four games. Very similar (procedure). I think he's going to be in there real quick to clean out whatever is in there. And then I'm done."
And so Valentine, the only Bulls player who was on target to play every game, ends his season after 77 straight games with 37 starts.
"He'll have a minor procedure," said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. "They're going to scope his knee just to clean some things out of there. He's had some swelling, so they did an MRI. He probably could have kept going, but the smart move is to get the procedure done as quickly as possible so he can get the rehab.'
After averaging 5.1 points and shooting 35 percent overall and from three as a rookie last season in 57 games without a start, Valentine this season doubled his scoring to 10.2 points per game. He also averaged 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 42 percent shooting, 39 percent on threes. Valentine was the most accurate three-point shooter on the team other than Nikola Mirotic, who was traded in February.
The 6-6 Valentine had career high games this season in scoring, rebounds and assists
"I think I had an overall a good year," said Valentine. "I improved. It's definitely trending in the right direction. I just have to keep getting better. Hopefully my numbers double again next year. My plan is to double what I did this year and have a great third year.
"I feel like I should have a bigger role next year," said Valentine, who figures to compete for a starting small forward spot. "I definitely should be a starter coming in. I definitely want to improve and be a for sure starter on this team. I think I can be a consistent player at this level, be somebody they can rely on, somebody who defends, makes shots, makes plays for other, plays the game the right way and is a competitor. So I definitely think I'm a starter in this league."
Valentine's highlight was last month in a loss to the Cavaliers when he had 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Since then he has averaged 13 points while shooting 43 percent on threes. Valentine is a talented passer and ball handler who has developed an accurate floater shot off the dribble.
"Denzel is a guy that we run a lot of offense through and I thought he made really good strides this year as far as making simple plays for the most part," said Hoiberg, who was back Tuesday after being ill Sunday. "You know he still has a few of those behind-the-back passes or no-look passes that we need to get rid of. But Denzel is one of the guys on our team that you can put the ball in his hands and trust that he's going to make the right play. To have multiple ballhandlers on the floor is such a luxury to have and puts a strain on the defense, so the biggest thing for Denzel is continue to work. He developed that floater this year and it's been a real weapon for him. He's shooting almost 39 percent from the three-point line. He needs to be more efficient with his twos and better finishing around the rim. Defensively, he grew, I thought, in a big way. So the big thing with Denzel this offseason is work on his overall game and continue to work on his body so he can finish off the full 82 next year.'
Valentine experienced some swelling and had an MRI Monday. Valentine had arthroscopic ankle surgery last year after the season ended.
"Finding out there actually is something wrong and I need a procedure done, it's like I could sit here and fight through it and grind it out," said Valentine. "But you never know what's going to happen. It could get worse. It'd be in the back of my mind. There's a lot of stuff that goes on with knowing you have to get a procedure at the end of the year. I kind of just wanted to get it done right now so I could get a jumpstart on my rehab and have a strong summer.
"I had a pretty healthy year this year," Valentine noted. "After my surgery last year, I kind of rushed it a little bit. This summer, just take my time, get as healthy as I can get, get better so I can hit the season running next year."