Bulls reserves salvage victory in preseason finale
What happens next with Simi Shittu remains to be seen. But he rescued the Bulls in their preseason finale Friday in Oklahoma City.
Shittu, who played for the Windy City Bulls last year, scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter and rallied the Bulls to a 105-103 victory over the Thunder. The Bulls trailed by 19 heading into the final quarter.
The Bulls finished preseason with a 3-1 record and will open the 72-game regular season Wednesday against Atlanta at the United Center.
It was as mixed bag for the Bulls regulars. Lauri Markkanen had his best game of preseason with 22 points and Zach LaVine added 20. But Coby White (1-for-10) and Otto Porter (1-for-8) didn't shoot well and OKC brought a little more juice than they did in Wednesday's blowout victory by the Bulls.
"It feels good obviously to finally make a couple shots and I think that's the level I can play every night and that's where my expectations are," Markkanen said after the game. "The starting lineup, we can't be down 20 going into the fourth, so that's on us."
Maybe the Bulls decided to do everyone a favor Friday and provide a little dose of reality. They looked like a fast-paced offensive machine two days earlier. The first three quarters of this game were a reminder the Bulls are still a rebuild under construction.
"It's a new group, we're still learning, and I think we need to fight a little bit more," LaVine said.
The Thunder, missing four starters from last season's playoff team, figures to contend for the No. 1 draft pick, not the playoffs. But coach Billy Donovan's former team did play a couple of veterans in this one who sat out Wednesday -- George Hill and Mike Muscala.
Shittu, a 6-foot-10 forward, was born in England, grew up in Canada and attended three different high schools in the U.S. He was part of the Class of 2018 and was actually ranked higher than Coby White in ESPN's top 100 recruiting list. He spent one year at Vanderbilt playing for Bryce Drew, turned pro and ended up in Hoffman Estates playing in the G-League last season.
"Simi's really good, man," LaVine said. "He can create. He hasn't been able to show a lot of it. He was one of the top players in the country in high school. He got injured. He's been a worker. I watched some of his (G-League) games. He can do it all. He comes ready to practice every day. Regardless if it's here, he's going to get an opportunity, he's a pro."
There's been no official plan announced for the G-League, but there's been talk of having a shortened season at a single bubble location, possibly Atlanta. Then it would be up to the individual teams whether they want to participate. Donovan was asked before the game if he knew the Bulls' G-League plans.
"We talked a little bit briefly about that before we left to go on the trip," Donovan said. "I think Arturas (Karnisovas) and Marc (Eversley) were looking to gather more information and evaluate that situation. What's that going to look like, how long are you going to be there? I think there's a lot of factors that go into that."
Unless something unexpected happens, Shittu and guard Zach Norvell will likely be cut in the next day or two. Both players would be candidates to play for Windy City if it fields a team this season.
Donovan said he should know more about the status of Tomas Satoransky and two-way player Devon Dotson when the team returns to Chicago. Both missed the final three preseason games for undisclosed reasons. Thad Young (leg infection), Denzel Valentine (hamstring) and new addition Garrett Temple (positive COVID test) did not play at all in preseason.
Rookie Patrick Williams had 7 points in his final preseason tuneup. Chandler Hutchison continued to be a spark of the bench, finishing with 11 points and 8 rebounds.