CHICAGO - For a team like the Bulls heading to the draft lottery for the second straight season, every potential developmental player is worth a closer look.
On Friday, the Bulls announced the signing of Walt Lemon Jr. to an NBA contract. The 26-year-old Chicago native joins the Bulls days after the team's G League affiliate was knocked out of their first ever playoff run.
It's a dream come true for Lemon to play for the Bulls. He grew up on the city's south side playing for Julian High School and became a standout for Bradley University. Now he gets to suit up for the team he idolized as a young man.
It's a recognition of hard work Lemon is still understandably processing.
"My agent called me and told me that the Bulls are going to sign me and I actually cried," Lemon mused honestly at Friday's Bulls practice. "It's because it's definitely a dream come true for me."
After graduating from Bradley and going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, Lemon bounced around different respective basketball leagues attempting to make his mark anywhere he could. From Hungary, Germany, Turkey and Greece internationally, to carving out a place in the NBA Developmental League, it's been a winding road for the 6-foot-3, 180 pound point guard. It wasn't until 2018 when Lemon finally received his first shot in the NBA: A five-game stint with the New Orleans Pelicans last February. After New Orleans parted ways with Lemon, he would eventually find his way again with the Boston Celtics before they waived him in November.
He didn't waste his opportunity after he was traded to the Windy City Bulls, averaging over 20 points a game to go with eight assists and four rebounds over 33 games. His sterling play ended up catching the attention of the Bulls' brass and the rest is history.
The gravity of the moment isn't lost on Lemon. The Bulls have six games left in the 2018-2019 season. That's six opportunities for Lemon to prove himself at the highest level with his hometown team.
"To get a chance to play in the NBA again, for me I don't care if it's five games or two games, just for me to put an NBA jersey on again is special," said Lemon. "For it to be my hometown, that's special enough."