Bulls still hoping for more than 3-point shots from Valentine

Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine was billed as a player who could do a little bit of everything.

Last year at Michigan State, he ranked fourth in the nation in assists with 7.6 per game, an amazing achievement for a small forward.

So far in the NBA, the 6-foot-5 Valentine has become something of a 3-point shooting specialist. He's taken 73.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range and he's averaging just 2.4 assists per 36 minutes.

On the bright side, he did record 4 assists in Friday's loss to Houston. His season-high is 5 assists against Phoenix on Feb. 24.

"We watched film with him the other day," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Saturday at the Advocate Center. "In Orlando, he had two consecutive possessions where he shot one (3-pointer) from the right corner that got blocked. It was too early, it was contested. Then he took a wide-open one in the left corner, which is a great shot. It didn't go in, but that's a great shot that absolutely we'll accept.

"I thought he made some good plays off the bounce (Friday). We ran a couple actions for him to get him a live bounce (dribble), try to get into the paint and make plays and I thought he did a solid job of that."

Mirotic goes to bench:

Nikola Mirotic sat out for the second consecutive game Friday. Asked if Mirotic will return to the rotation, coach Fred Hoiberg was noncommittal.

"We'll re-evaluate that and see how the flow of the game is going," Hoiberg said.

Mirotic played well after getting benched earlier this season, so maybe Hoiberg is trying to help Mirotic find his confidence. Then again, he's a restricted free agent who may not be back next season, so it's possible the plan is to take a long look at newcomer Joffrey Lauvergne as a guy who might be worth keeping.

"With Lauvergne, he's still a young player in this league," Hoiberg said. "I think we've all liked what we've seen out of him in stretches and will try to continue to get him some minutes."

Payne's time awaits:

Point guard Cameron Payne was the Bulls' third-leading scorer in Friday's loss to Houston, with 11 points in 16 minutes. The performance prompted coach Fred Hoiberg to think about the future with the main guy acquired in the Oklahoma City trade.

"Obviously Cam is a guy that has an opportunity to have a very bright future," Hoiberg said. "Now it's about getting consistency with a guy that hasn't played much in this league - part of it due to the fact that he was backing up (Russell) Westbrook, an Ironman, and part of it was due to the fact he had some injury issues earlier in the season.

"So he has gotten some valuable experience (with the Bulls). He's under contract for the next couple years, so we'll have an opportunity to get him here for an entire summer and I think everybody's looking forward to that.

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