Chicago Bulls

Bulls' Onuralp Bitim shows poise, preparedness in huge victory

Rookie scores first NBA points and hits crucial free throws in double OT victory over Cavaliers

NBC Universal, Inc.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Late in the second overtime of the Chicago Bulls’ improbable, double overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, DeMar DeRozan walked over to Onuralp Bitim and embraced him.

Not only did Bitim score his first NBA points on Wednesday night, he played all 10 minutes of the overtime sessions and scored 10 points with six rebounds in 27 minutes. He also sank two big free throws and played closing minutes in one of the most crucial victories of the season considering it came following a dispiriting loss to the Detroit Pistons.

“I really can’t describe how I feel. But it’s not about my English, even my own language,” Bitim, a native of Turkey, said. “I was dreaming of this moment for a really long time. And I was really trying to be ready and my teammates really helped me, my coaches. I knew the chance was going to come. You just never know when. You just have to be ready. We as players always have to be ready mentally and physically.

“Deebo told me he was proud of me. That means a lot to me. I grew up watching him. He was one of my idols. And now we’re on the court together. We won together. Hearing those words from him was a really huge blessing---from him, Coby (White), Ayo (Dosunmu), Vooch (Nikola Vucevic). I’m very lucky because I have teammates and coaches like them.”

And his coaches and teammates benefitted from Bitim’s poise and preparedness.

“I’m proud of him. We’re all proud of him. It’s amazing to see a guy do what he did in such a big game and close the game too. He hit some big shots, made some big plays, held his own defensively,” DeRozan said. “It’s crazy. We haven’t had much practice with him knowing the offense and having a rhythm with us. So for him to do what he did is amazing.

“You can tell he can play. You can tell the IQ and the feel is there. He can shoot the heck out of the ball.”

Bitim had his two-way contract converted to a standard NBA deal last week and now this. He said he wasn’t nervous when he stepped on the court because playing basketball is what he does.

“I was excited,” he said. “I was feeling unbelievable.”

And his overseas professional experience showed throughout.

“OB was incredible. He’s a guy who has played professional basketball for awhile. He doesn’t have that rookie mentality,” Andre Drummond said. “He played like he belongs. And he does.”

Click here to follow the Bulls Talk Podcast.

Contact Us