Windy City Bulls with successful debut and 123-94 win


Nov 11

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It’s been quite the year for Spencer Dinwiddie, one that included a trade from the Detroit Pistons to the Bulls after he’d spent considerable time playing in Grand Rapids in the D-league. Then there was being waived by the Bulls to accommodate their free agent signings last July, summer league in Las Vegas, then resigned by the Bulls after that, playing in training camp and the preseason for the Bulls, waived a day into the current NBA season and Saturday night considering a terrific opening game for the Windy City Bulls with 17 points, 11 assists and just one turnover in Windy City’s 123-94 rout of the Long Island Nets.

“My journey has been crazy,” Dinwiddie said with a smile, forever upbeat and thankful to be playing professional basketball. “When it’s all said and done and I’m on the other side of it, hopefully me and those close to me will be able to laugh at it and laugh at the process.”

It’s not an easy or glamorous process that makes one smile, though it was a fun couple of hours in the Hoffman Estates Sears Centre as Chicago’s new pro basketball entry impressed with an end to end domination, leading by double digits about four minutes into the game and basically the rest of the way, by 35 points midway through the second quarter.

“We blew them out,” agreed Dinwiddie. “It went great; the way we came out we drilled them from the start. That’s what you want to do. They never really got it under 20, maybe once. When you get up and they never get back like that you really have played consistent basketball. It’s a testament to our group and our coach, who got his first win tonight. So it’s a big night for him. I thought it was a special night all the way around.”

Former Bulls video assistant Nate Loenser coaching the Bulls D-league entry didn’t get the Champagne shower for his first win. This is the D-league after all. He did get a bottle of water. As soon as the game ended, several players were hustled off for fan autograph sessions and demonstrations. Dinwiddie was scheduled for one, but several family members were in town. He paid a teammate $5 to switch dates with him. Everyone’s on a tight budget.

“I appreciated their efforts,” said Loenser. “Said thank you. They are good guys. They congratulated me, but the credit goes to them.”

It was good, aggressive basketball. J.J. Avila, a 6-8 forward from Colorado State via Navy who played in Belgium last season and who was in the Bulls training camp, led the team with 21 points. Center Alec Brown, who played in the D-league last season and Portugal, also scored 17 and hustling Thomas Walkup from Stephen F. Austin had 13 points, seven assists, six steals and five rebounds. Chicagoan Alfonzo McKinnie added 16 points and 11 rebounds in an active effort. R.J. Hunter had 10 points and seven assists after a slow start shooting in his first game since his release from Boston. There are a million stories in the D-league, the guys who are considered maybe a little too short, or slow, or without a great handle or shot, but close, very, very close.

Dinwiddie, a 6-6 200-pound point guard, may be the closest, so close he knows he can be there, perhaps should be, can feel it. Sometimes it feels like you are trying to catch a cloud. There are only so many places, and for second round picks, as he was in 2014, there’s little room for error. Or hesitation.

Dinwiddie ran the offense smoothly, was efficient making five of nine shots and both threes he attempted.

“The starters’ energy level was great,” said Loenser. “I like how hard we pushed the ball, how we shared the ball; we had 42 assists. It was neat to see the guys playing for each other and hopefully we can continue getting better.”

It’s the song of the D-league, show a little more and hope someone notices.

Though NBA teams like the Bulls with Windy City own their teams, the players are signed to the NBA. Except players with individual team contracts, like Hunter for the Bulls. So any NBA team can sign a player in the D-league. It’s a chorus line audition. But it’s also good basketball. If it isn’t, no one moves on. And dozens do.

“I’m using it hopefully as a chance to improve and also showcase for teams,” said Dinwiddie. “I used preseason (with the Bulls) for that, played in a few games. I think I played well. It was either do this or stay at home and work out if I want to get back in the league.

“You can get forgotten (playing in Europe),” he explained. “I have some buddies who played exceptionally well there and haven’t had the luck getting back, so I wanted to give this a try for at least another year to get in the league and stick. I feel I’ve proven with time I play well. Everybody around me in my circle, we believe I can play at a very high level. It’s just getting that opportunity. It’s the one thing I haven’t had.”

And it seems if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.

Loenser read off the itinerary for Sunday as the players dressed and met family and friends after the game at about 9:30.

“We’ve got to go to bed, quick wakeup call, get here 5 in the morning, bus to O’Hare, fly to Cleveland, bus to Erie (Pa.), shootaround at the gym and play at 7 p.m. This is the D-league life, but we don’t want these to be excuses. We are not going to let any of these excuses get in the way of what we are trying to do.”

Spencer Dinwiddie as well.

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