CHICAGO – Normally the first game of the preseason is met with moderate excitement.
It is the first time an NBA team takes the floor as a group for the season and the first time rookies get to put on an NBA jersey. New players to a roster get to show a few their skills in front of fans, but typically their action is limited.
That’s how it was for the Bulls on Monday night as they played the first of five preseason games over the next few weeks. There was some good, some bad, and plenty left to show as the Bucks left with a 122-112 victory at the United Center.
Yet for one player, it meant so much more, since it was his return to the court after a 2018-2019 season of frustration.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 8, 2019
Struggling with ankle injuries last preseason, Denzel Valentine underwent surgery on his ankle in November that essentially ended his season. The 2016 first round draft pick never took the floor as the watched from the sidelines during the entire 22-win Bulls’ campaign.
Monday night was the first time he’d been on an NBA floor for a game of any kind since April 1, 2018, when he saw 18 minutes of action in a game against the Wizards at the United Center. Valentine made his return to the same venue, playing 19 minutes for the Bulls off the bench in their loss to the Bucks.
He was 3-of-12 from the field, scoring 11 points with five rebounds and two steals as he adjusted to life back in the Bulls rotation. Yet the production wasn’t significant for this night, as his near year-and-a-half wait to get back on the court was over.
Valentine told ChicagoBulls.com that he “shed a tear” on the way to the arena because he was so happy being back. It certainly made this first preseason game of the 2019-2020 season quite significant for him even if it’s just a small step for many others in the lead up to the start of the campaign that counts.