Many people are familiar with the call-and-response game ‘Marco Polo’ where, while swimming, one player closes their eyes and attempts to find the others using only the sound of their voice.
Well, the Chicago Bulls are playing their version with big man Marko Simonovic.
The 6-foot-11 stretch center has been absent from the team’s plans so far despite offering more than one thing this team could admittedly use, not the least of which is energy.
“Absolutely, he should be on the floor,” an Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Sean Deveney. “It is a tough thing to manage, they want to win games now, they have some older guys who are not going to have much of a window. And Marko is still raw in a lot of ways, but he runs hard, he hustles, other guys feed off that.”
Marko Has Been a No-Go
Simonovic is averaging 16 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.0 steals in slightly over 29 minutes per game for the Windy City Bulls in the G League.
He has shot 52.4% overall and 40% from beyond the arc.
But, even as the Bulls were without reserve big man Andre Drummond for six straight games, Simonovic was a non-factor.
“He is much more of an NBA player now than he was a year ago,” the GM says, “but they should probably be using these early-season games, especially when you have injuries, to get this guy’s feet wet. He had some really good moments in Summer League and held his own in EuroBasket against good competition, enough to where you would have to say you need to give him a look, he has earned a look.”
For all of the talk of his struggles last season, Simonovic posted a plus-1.2 net rating.
He has appeared in just one game for the Bulls this season. It was the blowout loss in the home opener to the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 22 in which he recorded no stats in under two minutes finishing with a plus-minus of minus-8.
Bulls Need Simonovic’s Energy
If nothing else, to the executive’s point, guys feed off of the energy their teammates play with and the Bulls can look to rookie Dalen Terry for proof. Terry is also raw and makes his fair share of mistakes.
But his impact on the team’s overall hustle when he’s on the floor is undeniable.
Coming out of the loss to the Nuggets, all anyone associated with the Bulls could talk about was their lack of energy.
“Yes,” Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said when asked if his team’s energy was low against Denver, per Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune. “But I believe energy is a choice. You can’t play off feelings. Feelings come and go. You’ve got to eliminate feelings and choose to do things. … We’ve got to choose our energy.”
Drummond returned a couple of games ago on November 9 in the loss to the New Orleans Pelicans and recorded a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double versus Denver.
But the Bulls are still struggling with their energy and shooting. And, at least for now, they won’t look to get that from Simonovic who the general manager points out is still young at 23 but not as young as some other similarly qualified prospects.