Bulls veterans cool as ice in mentoring both on and off the court

Bulls veterans cool as ice in mentoring both on and off the court

Not only are the likes of Thad Young and Garrett Temple contributing in the maturation of the core, but in the case of Temple, have shown to be of extreme value from a contract stanpoint.

It’s a perspective that Bulls fans don’t really need a reminder of.

The problem is when the television camera catches reserve Cristiano Felicio putting an ice cube down the back of Adam Mokoka’s jersey during a time out like he did several weeks ago, it’s no longer a nudge of how business used to be conducted within the organization, but a slap in the face.

If the Bulls can get in all 72 regular-season games – a big if with the coronavirus causing havoc in the scheduling – the seldom-used Felicio will make about $105,000 per game to be the ice cube bandit.

A product of former general manager Gar Forman trying to prove he was the smartest man in the room by handing Felicio a four-year, $32 million deal back in 2017, based on a few overhyped moments in games and practices.

How has the new regime been evaluating talent before spending? The one purchase executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas did make in the shortened offseason was giving veteran Garrett Temple $4.7 million.

The same Temple that has been a big-time mentor, an anchor for a bench that has been giving the opposition headaches on most nights, and a key player for the closing unit in close games.

Money well spent is an understatement.

“I’ve always had great respect for Garrett even going back to his time at LSU when I was at Florida coaching against him,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “The first thing that stands out is he’s a very, very classy professional guy who comes ready, and will do anything that is asked of him for the benefit of the team. A guy who has a lot of experience in terms of giving his wisdom to a lot of younger players, investing time in the younger players, trying to talk to the younger players.’’

Then again, Donovan can say the same thing about the other two veterans that help anchor that second unit.

Besides Temple, Thad Young and Otto Porter have not only played at a high level, but have taken on the role of on-the-court coaches, and done so with open arms.

“The biggest thing with the young guys and the veteran guys, the young guys are listening,’’ Young said. “They’re taking in the things that we’re doing when we get out there on the court, they’re seeing how we move the ball, they’re seeing how we pick apart defenses and we get easy reads just by moving the basketball and passing and cutting. So they’re taking those things and even applying it to their games.

“Obviously the young guys are the core pieces of our team and they’re gonna make us go. So we want to put them in the best position possible and I think that’s what’s been happening.’’

It has been happening, and it needed to.

Donovan’s starting group averages 21.6 years old with 3.4 years of experience, with Zach LaVine the oldest at 25 and in Year 7. The three “old guys?’’ The average age is 31 with 11 years of experience. So if it resembles a baby-sitting job at times for the vets, it’s kind of because it is.

“Yeah, they’ve been really important to us obviously,’’ starting forward Lauri Markkanen said. “Off the court they’re talking to us a lot, and just trying to help us.

“There’s nights that the starting lineup is not playing great. Hopefully we can limit those, but that’s just basketball, that’s going to happen. So it’s nice to have that deep bench for us. That just tells that these guys are professionals.’’

And no ice cubes needed.

NOTE: Both Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison returned to practice on Wednesday from testing positive for the coronavirus. As long as there’s not setbacks, the two are expected to be available for Friday’s game.

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