Julian Phillips

Bulls' Julian Phillips makes presence felt in unexpected minutes

Rookie played with poise and confidence over his 4-minute-plus stretch vs. Raptors

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

NEW YORK --- Officially, Julian Phillips’ name landed eight times in the play-by-play from the Chicago Bulls’ loss to the Toronto Raptors Friday night.

Not bad for a 4 minute, 27 second rotational turn from a second-round pick.

“I definitely want to make every minute count when I’m out there,” Phillips said following Saturday’s practice at the Brooklyn Nets practice facility.

Phillips wasn’t perfect with his decision-making as he finished with two points and one foul, missing both free-throw attempts and an open 3-pointer. But that’s not fully the point.

Though coach Billy Donovan pointed out that Phillips bypassed two open 3-pointers on the same possession where he attacked the rim and scored on a drive, the Bulls’ coach also pointed out how Phillips played with poise and confidence and decisiveness.

In short, Phillips is showing flashes of being more than a guy with a 43-inch vertical jump.

“It was fun for me to get out there with the guys. Those are big games for me early in my career,” Phillips said. “It’s definitely still a moment for me when I go in. But I wouldn’t so much say I’m nervous. It’s more of an excitement. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team.”

Of course, the big picture question is whether it’s a good thing Donovan is utilizing a second-round pick to try to change the energy of a game. It’s the second time this month Donovan has played Phillips unexpectedly in a short rotational turn.

“The way the game was going, I was trying to inject a different kind of lineup with some energy and size. He and Patrick (Williams) and Torrey (Craig) were out there and I thought we could switch a little more, get some steals and transition points,” Donovan said. “I was just trying to change the flow of the game a little bit.”

Such is life for a 5-12 team.

Zooming out past the disappointing start to this season, which, if the Bulls were rolling, would feature Phillips playing almost exclusively for the Windy City Bulls, the 20-year-old wing has flashed some potential. Donovan specifically pointed to Phillips’ innate ability to read when to cut in halfcourt settings.

“I’m pretty excited about him. I think he has really good potential and upside,” Donovan said. “I know he’s young. He has a good feel of how to play.

“The thing I’ve been impressed by with him is the growth that I’ve seen from when he first came in to start summer league practice to how he progressed in Vegas to the rest of summer and into training camp. You could see a guy getting better. He’s very smart. He pays attention.”

And has countless teammates, not to mention coaches, in his ear trying to help.

“Billy told me about passing up those open 3-pointers. A couple teammates told me about it right away too. I definitely have to look for that when I catch it initially. Even though I did score, the shot I passed up was wide open,” Phillips said. “The one I missed was a good shot. I know what shots are good---when to shoot them, when not to.

“Playing in the NBA has been a lot. You don’t know what it’s like until you’re finally in it. You could watch as many NBA games as you want as a kid. But until you experience everything first-hand, it’s like no other for sure. I’m blessed to be here.”

Phillips said his main current focus is to get stronger physically, work on his floor spacing offensively and be consistent with defensive versatility. Putting up some monster numbers in his G League appearances has helped.

“It’s been good to get heavy minutes. You get to showcase a lot down there,” he said. “I definitely think it’s helped me a lot in my growth and transition to the league.”

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