Julian Phillips

How Julian Phillips salvaged his rookie season after injury cut it short

Phillips' season was cut short due to a midfoot sprain

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CHICAGO ---- During his rookie campaign with the Bulls, Julian Phillips turned some heads, finding a niche with the team as a hustle player who can get to the rim and step up on defense.

He earned minutes in Billy Donovan's rotation, playing a season-high 28 minutes against the Mavericks (also scored a career-high 11 points in that game) in mid-March. Unfortunately, that was one game before his season was cut short due to a right midfoot sprain.

At the NBA Draft Lottery in downtown Chicago, Phillips represented the Bulls on stage and provided an update on his status heading into a pivotal offseason for his development.

"It's doing a lot better. I finished up the rehab on it," Phillips said. "I've been back working out, kind of doing everything I've been doing, so it's doing a lot better."

Phillips' length and size provided him the freedom to flash potential on both sides of the floor for the Bulls.

Overall, he finished the season playing 40 games, averaging 2.2 points and less than one rebound and an assist per game. The bulk of his work came off the stat sheet with pristine hustle and sometimes integral defense for the Bulls.

But with his season cut short, Phillips missed out on crucial games for his development. Experience is the best teacher for rookies and finding time in real NBA games is critical.

Phillips lost 18 games at the end of the season due to his foot injury. But he salvaged his season by becoming a sponge on the sidelines and finding a different perspective to see the game.

All in all, Phillips was satisfied with his first year.

"Overall, I thought it was a good year," he said. "I definitely learned a lot on and off the court. And it was a little disappointing, obviously getting it cut short. But that also taught me a lot, kind of seeing the game from a different perspective kind of on the sideline. A lot of time spent with the coaches, probably more than I would have been had I been on the court. Definitely learned a lot both being on the court and off."

If there's one thing the second-year forward needs to work on this offseason, it's shooting. If he can become a reliable scorer on the offensive end, he'll surely earn a more concrete role in the Bulls' lineup.

Specifically for the Bulls, Phillips has the chance to emerge on a roster clouded by uncertainty this offseason; one Artūras Karnišovas said earlier this offseason he knows needs change.

Phillips finished his rookie season shooting 41% from the field and 31% from 3-point range. Granted, he only took 77 shots on the season, but efficiency matters in marginal roles like Phillips'.

Most importantly, Phillips said he's back to 100% with his health. He's unsure if he'll play for the Bulls summer league team, but he'll be training hard this season in hopes of carving out a more meaningful role with the team next season.

"I'll be in Chicago some months. I'll kind of be other places, just putting it up on working, getting stronger --- obviously, with my body," Phillips said. "[I'll be] working on pretty much all parts of my game. And it's definitely gonna be a big summer for me."

What did the Bulls ask of him this summer?

"Just keep getting better and be ready for next season."

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