Bulls took a shot on Murphy and got a good one


Jul 20

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Bulls second round draft pick Erik Murphy used to be Johnny Manziel. Well, without the Heisman trophy, of course. And he didn’t exactly run quite as fast. But he can identify with the talented Texas A&M quarterback better than most.

“You’re 20 years old, a young kid just having fun, like 95 percent of college kids are doing. But some things get blown out proportion,” agreed Murphy. “Like my situation. But at the same time you are under a microscope and you have to realize that.”

The microscope for Murphy and his Bulls teammates this week was on their summer league games, and they came out looking pretty good.

Erik Murphy

“I try to provide some spacing, stretch the floor, come in and play the role I’m asked,” says Murphy. “Whatever they need me to do. Just help the team win.”

The Bulls closed out their summer league season Friday night with a 94-87 victory over the Dallas Mavericks to finish 4-1. This year, the summer league became an elimination tournament. So the Bulls’ one loss Thursday after a 3-0 start knocked them into consolation play. They won their game and thus ended the week.

With their strong performances through Thursday, the Bulls gave Marquis Teague and Malcolm Thomas off Friday to give a chance to other players.

Teague finished his four games averaging 18.3 points and 4.8 assists and shooting six of eight on three-pointers. His floor game and team leadership were by far the best he’s looked as a Bull and his shooting was much improved. He looked confident and was one of the best guards in the league.

Thomas missed one game with a leg injury. In his three, he averaged 10.7 points and 18 rebounds with a summer league record 22 against Denver.

Rookie first round pick Tony Snell came on strong after a slow start to the week with 20 points and seven rebounds Friday. Snell also shot five of eight on threes against the Mavs in showing off his range after attacking the basket more in previous games. Snell showed a versatile game, averaging 11.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

Free agent guard Andrew Goudelock rallied after two sluggish games to lead the Bulls in scoring against the Mavs with 22 points. He also made two of three three-pointers to finish the week 12 of 23 on threes, for 52 percent. Overall, Goudelock shot 47 percent from the field and averaged a team best 19 per game.

As for Murphy, the 6-10 forward from the University of Florida, he also finished strong Friday with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Mostly, he continued to show excellent three-point range, making three of five threes in Friday’s win and 10 of his last 14 threes after a zero for six start in the first game. Still, he finished shooting 50 percent on threes while averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. Overall, Murphy shot 54 percent from the field even with his uneven start in the first game when he missed all six threes.

“The first game I struggled getting acclimated,” Murphy conceded. “I probably was a little nervous. I tried not to be, but it was my first game. After that, I was playing a lot better, learning, defensively trying to figure out what to do. I think I did well and I want to continue to get better.

“My teammates got me open shots and I knocked down some,” said Murphy. “We were playing as a team, playing together, playing defense and trying to do the things the team wants us to do. I’ve been getting more comfortable with the NBA game, the little things. I try to provide some spacing, stretch the floor, come in and play the role I’m asked. Whatever they need me to do. Just help the team win.”

If anything watching Murphy, you want him to shoot even more. He’s obviously a very unselfish player and adept at moving the ball. But he’s such a good shooter, especially for a big man, sometimes you wish he’d shoot instead of passing the ball on to a lesser shooter, which is basically most everyone he plays with.

In the summer games, the Bulls had Murphy playing high screen/roll, popping out and moving the ball along on the perimeter. As the games went on, he improved his rebounding position and showed even without great lift he can play good position defense and block shots as he got three on Friday.

Erik Murphy

Erik, whose younger brother Alex plays for Duke, said his father emphasized fundamental and skill play, which was how he developed such a good shot even for a big man. Jay, a 6-9 forward, was a pretty good shooter, but not with the range of Erik and never made a three in the NBA.

Murphy’s father, Jay, was a top collegiate player at Boston College and played briefly in the NBA in the late 1980’s with the Clippers and Bullets. He then played in France and Italy.

Erik, whose younger brother Alex plays for Duke, said his father emphasized fundamental and skill play, which was how he developed such a good shot even for a big man. Jay, a 6-9 forward, was a pretty good shooter, but not with the range of Erik and never made a three in the NBA.

“Dad emphasized the fundamentals,” says Erik. “We did a lot of skill work, a lot of shots, repetition at a young age. I continued to work at it. It’s something he instilled in me, that the shot was so important. Once I began to see the results, I kept on working. It’s something I wanted to have in my game as a bigger guy.

“Then I improved my defense a lot in college,” says Murphy. “I have the size to defend down low and I know I can learn a lot from coach Thibs. It’s something I want to work on and get better. Plus, I feel I know how to play the game and understand the game well.”

Murphy seems like a strong second round pick who can help the team in the long run. He’s regarded as a high character guy, and one reporter who covered him throughout high school said he’s the kind of person whom you’d trust your kids to as a babysitter.

Which is what got me thinking about Murphy and Manziel.

The Texas A&M quarterback faced a media grilling this past week over his offseason which, as far as I could tell, involved oversleeping and leaving a quarterback camp early, going to Mardi Gras, holding sparklers in his mouth, Tweeting criticism of West Texas (who hasn’t?) and hanging out with a rapper and then LeBron James.

These kids today!

It’s truly the hypocrisy of intercollegiate sports.

The colleges under the guise of amateurism run a multimillion dollar sports business. So suddenly because you are a part of that business you have to behave like a businessperson. But you are 18 and 19 and 20, and capable of doing marginally dumb stuff.

“It’s tough for him,” understands Murphy talking about Manziel. “He’s a young kid who likes to have fun, an outgoing kid. He enjoys himself and he should. But then what can he do. You have to learn to give the right impression while still enjoying life. It puts pressure on you. It’s supposed to be the best four years of your life, but you don’t want to give the wrong impression and create an image which isn’t you. All your friends in college are having fun and out partying. But it’s riskier for you.”

Murphy knows better than most because he was in that bubble as well. Look, it’s the University of Florida. Ask Joakim Noah how tough it is to not get noticed for being a college kid, especially when you are a very tall young man.

Murphy’s indiscretion was perhaps the most unfair I ever heard of. I probably did the same thing a half dozen times, but was fortunate not to be a very tall man or athletically talented at the time.

I’ve met and talked to Murphy, and this is a very nice, humble kid who will be a credit to the organization.

He actually was contemplating leaving Florida after rarely playing his first two years. Many around him were advising him to. But he liked the university and told coach Billy Donovan he wanted to stay and would do whatever was necessary to help the team.

So then he and a few friends went to a bar to celebrate and Murphy was underage. Imagine that! In Florida! So they have a few too many and decide to call a cab. While waiting in the parking lot, a very tired Murphy opened a car door and got in to rest. A friend was sprawled on the hood of the car waiting for the cab. Then, some bouncers from the club began yelling they were stealing the car. The bouncers began running at them, so they groggily got up and began running. After all, suddenly people were chasing them for no apparent reason on a dark night. And in Florida.

They were arrested and locked up for attempted theft.

Ridiculous, of course. But it looked bad. The college had to suspend him briefly and Murphy had to do community service. Were he not a basketball player, who ever would have noticed or done anything?

But this is a really good kid.

Murphy went on to an impressive last two seasons at Florida. He averaged 12.2 points as a senior and shot 45.3 percent on threes after shooting 42.1 percent on threes as a junior, overall almost 44 percent on threes for his career there. He got his grade average up to 3.0 and got his degree.

“There are things blown out of proportion, especially with someone like Manziel,” said Murphy. “If it were any other counselor at that camp no one would have heard anything. But at the same time you have to realize where you are and make sure you are doing your job and being responsible.”

The Bulls likely can count on that from their second round selection. It looks like they took a shot and got a good one.

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