Numerous injuries, trades and a coaching change have bridged the Chicago Bulls' first home game of the season with their 41st and final one.
Chicago's rotation for Tuesday night's regular-season home finale against the New York Knicks looks markedly different than the group that opened the season, although one new face is familiar with the whole "rebuild" drill.
Forward JaKarr Sampson, a recent call-up from Chicago's G-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, played with the Philadelphia 76ers for 121 games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. The Sixers won just 26 times during Sampson's tenure.
After scoring a career-high 29 points against his former team in Saturday's 116-96 home loss, Sampson told reporters that Chicago should continue to stay the course, even as the season slogs toward the NBA Draft Lottery for the 22-58 Bulls.
"Stick with the process," Sampson said. "It's just that. Do everything the right way every single day. Those days build up over time. Just stay consistent. We've got team concepts. Buy into what coach is saying and just stick together and it will happen."
Assured of the NBA's worst record and a draft selection no lower than fifth, the Knicks (16-64) can attest to the talk of patience and perseverance. The team must split its final two games to tie the franchise record for fewest wins in a regular season, established in 2014-15. Defeating the Bulls on Monday and the Detroit Pistons in Wednesday's finale would avoid the mark altogether.
In a recent interview with ESPN New York radio, Knicks owner James Dolan expressed optimism about the path of the franchise, citing free-agent projections and a cache of future first-round draft picks.
"The thing about the team now is that it's very young," Dolan said. "It's the youngest team in the NBA. You take a look at some of the players that we have and they won't be the centerpiece of the team, but as complements to the centerpiece of the team, we're developing them right now."
Sampson, who spent part of the G-League season playing in China, embodies that ethic for the Bulls. He may not have been on the radar in October, but he's back in the NBA now and aiming to contribute and grow his own game.
"I feel like it's just God's timing," Sampson said. "I feel it's all about right place, right time, right coach, right situation, right opportunity. Right now that's what you're all seeing. I'm getting the minutes and I've been working on my game, too.
"When you're out of the NBA, you get a different appreciation for it. Being in China, being across the ocean, you really be like, 'Man, I've got to take this chance and run with it,' and that's what I'm trying to do."
Saturday's loss to the Sixers was the Bulls' 31st on their home floor this season, tying a franchise record set by the 2000-01 team. A victory would keep the Bulls from setting a new team mark for futility at home.
--Field Level Media
Young Knicks, Bulls preach to 'trust the process'
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