Summer League Game 1 Recap: Bulls Beat Celtics, 71-62

Apr 11, 2016; Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) and forward Doug McDermott (3) celebrate during the second half of the game at the Smoothie King Center. The Bulls won 121-116. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) and forward Doug McDermott (3) celebrate during the second half of the game at the Smoothie King Center. The Bulls won 121-116. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bulls emerged victorious from their first game of the Las Vegas Summer League against the Boston Celtics on Saturday evening by a score of 71-62.

A shot caroms the top of the backboard, there is a scramble as a tangle of long limbs eagerly reverse course and tear full-speed in the opposite direction they were just heading. Then, an air ball. And so the dance of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League carries on, in perfect harmony, as hoop dreams sway in the balance and players affirm or defy our expectations for them.

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Yes, basketball is back. The Bulls kicked off their LVSL game schedule against the Celtics on Saturday with a lot of expectations for their young core. It was a mixed bag, but that is exactly what you should expect to get from a game in the middle of July.

The Bulls were never behind in this game. There were a lot of ties, but the Bulls got out early and kept pace whenever the Celtics would make a little run and eventually cruised to a 71-62 victory. This being the first game of the summer means one important thing – the Bulls are undefeated (in summer league so whatever)!

The Bulls started the four players you knew they would: Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Jerian Grant and Cristiano Felicio. The final spot was the mystery and ended up being Dez Wells.

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  • Game Grades

    A: Bobby Portis

    We’re grading on a curve, so you’ve got one “A” grade player in the whole bunch and it is definitely Portis. The second-year player came out extremely fired up for a summer game and it was just his pre-game showmanship, as soon as the ball was tipped, he was off and running. Bobby carried Chicago in the early going, scoring a series of successive baskets for the Bulls. A lot of his points early on were the product of intelligently designed Kobe assists, also known as teammates who brick shots. Portis grabbed some offensive rebounds for putbacks and also worked some good looks out of the post including a very nice spin move up-and-under that he was unfortunate to not finish with a score.

    Portis came to Vegas to put in work, giving all of these fringe players and rookies a taste of the league. He did exactly that. Portis finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but was suspiciously -2 for the game. On first watch, it looked like he may have suffered due to the lineups he was sharing the court with, after all Chicago is anything but a defensive team these days. Without Portis, the Bulls lose.

    If I gave out a second “A” or an “A-,” it would go to Guerschon Yabusele. This guy reminds me of players like Charles Barkley or Charles Oakley. He’s real big and real strong, but hit a few shots from 3-point range. He led the way for the Celtics physically with a decent 10 points and 7 rebounds. For a while he and Portis were going at each other on both ends of the floor and there was no loser, only winners and we were all winners for getting to watch that during a summer game.

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    B: Spencer Dinwidde

    You thought he was gone. I thought he was gone. It wasn’t even until after tip-off that I was aware that Dinwiddie was actually on the Bulls bench dressed to play. Word is that the Bulls intend to keep him signed through camp and possibly into the NBA season. This is great, great news.

    If you score at a box score, you might convince yourself that Jerian Grant had a great night with his 14 points. Indeed, he was stacking up baskets. However, Dinwiddie was the guy that made this team actually look like an offense. He put up 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting and added three assists in 18 minutes of play. He looked confident and played well most of the time, though he was still an occasional victim of poor shooting, including an air ball from extremely close range at one point.

    The important thing was that Dinwiddie looked like he belonged, which is what really helped Portis and Yabusele (another player with professional experience, in Europe). Dinwiddie belongs on an NBA roster, hopefully that can be with the Bulls so they can trade Rondo when he tries to lock Fred Hoiberg in an arena bathroom on a road trip and leaves him there.

    C: Dez Wells

    No idea why they elected to start Wells, but hey, it happened so deal with it. He played 22:38 of this game, which is to say he played a lot of it. Still, he registered zero points, three rebounds, two assists and only one turnover. That’s about as non-descript as you can get in a summer game. Not terrible, definitely replacement-level stuff here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chicago go a different way with it from here, but it would be equally unsurprising if they just decided to keep running back what they’ve got because it was a steady “meh” the entire game.

    C: Jack Cooley

    The Notre Dame big man had himself a fun night, getting plenty physical while scoring baskets and grabbing rebounds. He finished the night with 11 points, 8 rebounds. He was also the subject of the best moment of the night from the NBA TV commentary crew when they drew parallels between Cooley and “Big Country” Bryant Reeves of Vancouver Grizzlies fame. What did they say was similar about his game? Nothing. They said that Cooley’s haircut reminded them of the hair stylings of Reeves. There you have it, peak Las Vegas commentary.

    D: Jerian Grant

    He put up 14 points, but he needed shots to get there, shooting 2-for-8 from 3-point range. He also had four turnovers, including one instance where he appeared to misjudge the position of an opponent and simply fell over. Not ideal. It’s a bit of a harsh grade, but since I’m grading on a curve, this is just where Grant ends up. It also hurt that despite running the point a lot of the time, he never managed to produce in that role. Instead, he had a high number of turnovers, took a lot of shots that he missed and only produced a single assist. Just one assist in a summer game for a guy who spent last year with a real life NBA basketball team. You could chalk it up to him getting used to his new team or maybe that he wasn’t mentally focused for the game, but isn’t that the problem right there? Just one game, I assume it gets better.

    F: Denzel Valentine

    I thought long and hard about putting Valentine here. I knew that it would seem like a strong overreaction to a rookie playing his first game in an relatively meaningless context. Lest you think that, I want it to be perfectly clear that I took all of that into consideration. It isn’t a big deal, just a genuinely poor shooting game from Valentine and I’m grading on a curve that isn’t going to rate and rank every single player on the roster. This is just where Valentine fits in for his first game.

    The hope for Valentine was that Vegas opposition would kind of obstruct some of his defensive woes since he has real issues on that end of the floor. No such thing happened. Valentine still proved to be a minus defender. The rest of his scouting report also bore out over the court of the game. Denzel finished with eight points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist. He also shot 4-for-16. Probably not the last time in his career that he’ll shoot like that, but it isn’t a problem. See, I’m just grading his first game with a bunch of guys that won’t play in the NBA this season or ever, truthfully. He’s out here to get a feel for the game and adjust to the basics of post-collegiate basketball reality.

    Valentine has good, maybe great, passing touch and he even had a pass or two end up in the hands of a teammate that wasn’t expecting it or didn’t know what to do with it. It’ll get better for Valentine, just had a less than spectacular game. He wasn’t alone there. Cristiano Felicio and Jaylen Brown also had rough nights with only small bright patches. Brown is going to have a good career and Felicio is set to see a good chunk of NBA minutes in 2016-17. It’ll get better.

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    Next: Summer Bull: Denzel Valentine

    The Bulls play again tomorrow against the Philadelphia 76ers at 8:30 PM EST. We’ll have a preview and a wrap up from that game for you right here at Pippen Ain’t Easy, tomorrow.