Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ---As the point guard and power forward starting position battles continue to play out over the course of Chicago Bulls training camp, Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter are focused less on that and more on trying to address what they feel the team lacked last season.
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The free-agent signees own unique perspectives, having played important roles on playoff teams in the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
Both players talked shortly after signing about trying to bring a competitive edge that can help the Bulls flip the script in their clutch games. You could make a case that the primary reason the Bulls moved from a playoff team in 2021-22 to failing to exit the play-in tournament in 2022-23 is the discrepancy in clutch games.
In the playoff season, the Bulls finished 25-16 in such games, which are defined as within five points or less and under 5 minutes to play. Last season, the Bulls finished just 15-23 in clutch games, tying for the second-fewest such victories in the league.
“Obviously playing against them a couple times, just seeing the amount of talent they had on the team, and I told Coach (Billy Donovan) the amount of games in that they did not finish, it’s that little bit of competitive edge that you have to have to finish out games and get over the hump,’’ Craig said following Wednesday’s practice at Belmont University. “That was one of the reasons I decided to come here because I felt like I could bring that extra edge and try and win some of the close games we’ve been in or try and motivate my teammates to get over the hump.’’
Like Carter, who said on Monday’s media day that he won’t be afraid to use his voice, Craig isn’t going to shy away from having tough conversations with teammates. The franchise has prioritized cohesion and communication, which is one reason why they’re holding remote training camp.
“I’m new here, so I’m trying to figure things out. But at the same time, I’ve been on some really good teams and played in a lot of games. So any advice I can give to guys or coaches I’m going to feel free to do that and not shy away from it because I think that’s what this team is missing,’’ Craig said. “A little bit of toughness, a little bit of an edge for guys with raw emotion to say how they feel and wear those emotions on their sleeve.’’
The Bulls received a boost last season when Patrick Beverley arrived via the buyout market. His direct leadership style is what management is hoping will be more widespread this season.
Between Alex Caruso consistently holding teammates accountable to Coby White finding his voice to the additions of Craig and Carter, the Bulls’ rotational depth and leadership by committee could be positive factors.
Whether or not Carter or Craig starts, both will play significant roles---with their words and their actions.