Dalen Terry energizes Bulls, United Center in NBA preseason debut

Terry energizes Bulls, United Center in preseason debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Dalen Terry didn’t take long to make a first impression in his NBA preseason debut Tuesday night.

Entering to noticeable applause from the United Center faithful just over halfway through the third quarter, Terry started his first possession guarding his man in the corner. A ball reversal by the New Orleans Pelicans forced Terry into a rotation to slow Jonas Valanciunas’ lane, which forced another pass and rotation.

After this one, Terry dropped into a defensive stance, matched up against talented scorer Devonte’ Graham. Terry displayed solid footwork, athleticism and his live-wire energy as he stayed with Graham for several seconds before drawing a borderline foul call that sent the first-round pick into an excitable display of disbelief.

“I loved how hard he played, the passion he played with,” Alex Caruso said. “That’s contagious and what you like to see from young guys.”

Terry finished with 11 points, including a dunk off a steal, with seven rebounds and two assists. But it’s a quieter, more subtle trait that most pleased Billy Donovan. The Chicago Bulls coach praised how Terry stayed engaged on the bench as starters and the projected second unit dominated the first-half minutes.

“He’s highly competitive, which I love, and eager to learn and get better. And I think when you start with those qualities, the shooting, the ballhandling, the passing, whatever you want to work on will get better,” Donovan said. “But it’s hard to create the kind of competitiveness that he has.”

That Terry delivered his trademark energy after sitting for so long bodes well if and when his number is called this season. As of now, he doesn’t project to be a rotational piece. But neither did Ayo Dosunmu at this stage last season.

“I was just staying ready,” Terry said. “Talking to the vets, especially Ayo about his last year, they say whenever you name is called, make sure you build three minutes to six minutes, six minutes to 12 minutes. I know defense is my way on the court.”

Terry felt he played OK, noting the Bulls didn’t win. That’s the only result on which he is focused.

But preseason or not, the rookie displayed solid ballhandling, including initiating offense with the third unit, and solid passing on top of his defensive energy. The crowd noticed as Terry spearheaded the second-half run that helped the Bulls erase a 19-point deficit to make the mostly meaningless game competitive.

“I thought he raised the energy of our team and certainly got the place excited,” Donovan said.

Dosunmu noticed. The second-year guard can be Terry’s model, the one who navigated a projected path to the G League into 40 starts and 77 games with a defensive mentality and jack-of-all-trades role acceptance.

“Play hard. Make open shots,” Dosunmu said of his advice to Terry. “He’s on the right path. He has the right mindset. He’s competitive.”

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