Blakeney ready for life in the big leagues with the Bulls
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.
Scouting reportBulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers at the United Center, 7 p.m.
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Clippers (36-29) moved into the eighth spot in the Western Conference over the weekend, by a few percentage points over Denver and Utah. Since trading away Blake Griffin, the Clippers have gone 11-5. SG Lou Williams is averaging a career-high 23.1 points per game, while SF Tobias Harris is at 19.9 points since arriving from the Pistons. C DeAndre Jordan ranks second in the league at 15.3 rebounds. SF Danilo Gallinari is out with a broken hand, SG Avery Bradley is sidelined by a sports hernia and PG Patrick Beverly is out for the season with a knee injury. Gallinari was the leading scorer with 24 points when the Clippers beat the Bulls 113-103 on Feb. 3 at the Staples Center.
Next: Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum on Thursday, 7 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw
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.