The Chicago Bulls have used their Hoffman Estates D-League affiliate as a place to give their bench players some game experience during a break in the NBA schedule.
Now they'll try a different tactic with rookie Denzel Valentine.
Instead of joining the Bulls for the start of the six-game ice show road trip, Valentine will follow the Windy City Bulls to New York, where they'll play the Long Island Nets on Wednesday, followed by two games against the Westchester Knicks on Friday and Saturday.
"We'll re-evaluate from there to see how things are going with our team, see if we want to get him back," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, stressing plans could change if there's an injury. "We'll re-evaluate and see how we go with our rotation."
It's possible this D-League stint will turn into an audition for NBA playing time. The Bulls have struggled to find a good fit at point guard and are the league's worst 3-point shooting team.
Valentine could answer both needs, in theory. When he played with the Windy City Bulls last Saturday at the Sears Centre, Valentine hit 8 of 14 shots from 3-point range, finishing with 24 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 7 turnovers.
"He'll play with the ball in his hands a lot," Hoiberg said. "Whether he's bringing the ball down, initiating the offense or coming off a screen with a live dribble and playing the role of playmaker, he's got to take what the defense gives him.
"We're not going out there and saying, 'Hey, you've got to shoot 14 3s every time you step on the floor. It's making the right play, playing the right way, and I'm confident Denzel will do that.
"He's a guy that's going to have a great future in this league."
Tough start to trip:
The Bulls will be challenged at the start of the road trip, facing Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Houston's James Harden, Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins and the Golden State Warriors in the first four games.
"I thought we responded really well the first long West Coast trip of the year. I thought we played extremely well," coach Fred Hoiberg said.
"We played hard, we played together. That's what it's going to take if we're going to have a chance to win any of these games coming up. It's a tough trip all around."
Gibson set to return:
Coach Fred Hoiberg said Taj Gibson went through a full practice Tuesday and should be ready to play against Oklahoma City. Gibson missed Sunday's win over Philadelphia with left-ankle soreness.