Blakeney ready for life in the big leagues with the Bulls

 
 
Updated 3/12/2018 10:23 PM
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  • Antonio Blakeney led the G-League in scoring this season by a wide margin. Now the Chicago Bulls are hoping he can bring the same level of play to the big leagues.

    Antonio Blakeney led the G-League in scoring this season by a wide margin. Now the Chicago Bulls are hoping he can bring the same level of play to the big leagues. Associated Press

Antonio Blakeney has left the G-League playoff chase to finish the NBA season with a Bulls team trying hard not to look like its trying to lose.

Obviously, he doesn't mind too much. The NBA world provides a nice quality of life.

Asked for his worst G-League travel story, Blakeney mentioned a bus ride through a blizzard to Toronto

"It took like 13 hours," he said. "It was crazy. We were going like 1 mile per hour."

Blakeney is not only the G-League's leading scorer, he won the crown by a wide margin. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 32.0 points per game for Windy City, well ahead of second place Quinn Cook from Santa Cruz at 24.7 points.

The Bulls want to see if those scoring skills can translate to the NBA. Coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday the plan is for Blakeney to spend the rest of the season in the big leagues.

During a 12-game run with the Bulls earlier this season, Blakeney had one memorable hot streak against the Lakers, scoring 15 points in less than six minutes on Nov. 21. Overall, he shot just 36.6 percent from the field and averaged 7.1 points during his previous time with the Bulls.

As a two-way player, Blakeney is limited to 45 days with the Bulls, which is one reason they waited to bring him back. While lighting up G-League opponents, the rookie from LSU missed the NBA, but tried to make the best of it.

"Definitely it's hard. But at the same time, it's basketball," Blakeney said Monday at the Advocate Center. "So my spirits are always going to be high when I'm on the court. I love to play basketball whether I'm in the G-League or up here. Of course, I think I deserve to be up here all the time. But it's a process to keep working."

In Hoffman Estates, Blakeney got a chance to work with assistant coach Jannero Pargo, one of the greatest instant-offense players in Bulls history.

"The G-League helped me a lot," Blakeney said. "It allowed me to play through mistakes and learn. Having guys like coach Charlie (Henry) and coach Pargo helped me. Watching film every day helped a lot."

Now back with the Bulls, Blakeney will be tested to see if he can navigate that fine line between being an impact scorer and just shooting every time he touches the ball.

So far, the results are promising. In the two road games over the weekend, he hit 8 of 11 shots from the field and scored 14 points in 19 minutes on Sunday in Atlanta.

The victory over the Hawks was a loss in the race for a higher draft pick, but the Bulls might consider it a player development win. After falling behind by 16 points early in the third quarter, a lineup of Blakeney, Cam Payne, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine and Noah Vonleh put together a 29-5 run.

"He has the unique ability of creating his own shot," Hoiberg said. "And that's a huge skill at this level. But at the same time, making sure he's taking the right shots when he gets those opportunities -- that's what we're looking for. He's an excellent athlete. He's an elite shot-maker."

The Windy City Bulls are a half-game behind Grand Rapids for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining, four of which are at the Sears Centre.

Hoiberg was asked if he feels badly for taking away Windy City's top scorer during the playoff push.

"No. (Head coach) Charlie (Henry), he's done a great job," Hoiberg said. "I think they've won 10 out of 12 and they're a half a game out of the playoffs right now. So he's doing a good job. One thing it's forced is (Ryan) Arcidiacono to be more aggressive in his role, and Jarell Eddie."

Maybe the Bulls can manufacture a player-development victory in two different leagues.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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