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Grant Emulating Conley, Embracing Opportunity With Bulls

Jerian Grant sits down with Basketball Insiders for an exclusive interview about his third season and high hopes for Chicago.

Spencer Davies profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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When a member of the Grant family sets their mind to something, it’s probably going to happen. The sport of basketball is in their blood.

Jerami is an integral piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder. His father Harvey was a respected 11-year wing that made his mark in the NBA, and Harvey’s brother Horace had a memorable career over 17 seasons in the league as well.

Now, it’s another one’s turn to continue the legacy.

“I just think our work ethic,” Jerian Grant told Basketball Insiders about his family’s connection to the game. “We weren’t always the guys that were ranked in high school or the guys that were the best player on your team even in high school, even in college.

“We get better every year. I think as we continue to play and work hard and get experience, we all get better.”

There are winds of change in the Windy City.

In one summer, the Chicago Bulls lost the brunt of their short-lived core. Franchise superstar Jimmy Butler was traded, hometown hero Dwyane Wade got bought out, and veteran guard Rajon Rondo became a free agent.

Heading into the 2017-18 campaign, it will be up to the young upstarts to prove they can compete at the highest level of basketball. Grant is poised to be the leader of this group, and he plans on using what he soaked in from observing those three to guide him.

“I think last year helped me a lot,” Grant told Basketball Insiders. “I got to play under some great guys—a great leader in a point guard in Rondo, guys like Jimmy and D Wade. Just learning from them, watching them, seeing how they were leading the team and how they were kind of speaking to the guys. I feel like a lot of that has rubbed off on me.”

The collection of talent that Chicago has is inexperienced, yet intriguing. Aside from a veteran like Robin Lopez, these players haven’t truly gotten a chance to see what they’re capable of with significant, expanded roles.

It’s a determination that Grant has noticed since training camp, and believes will be the driving force behind their resolve through the course of this season as they look to turn some heads.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys, but these guys are hungry,” Grant told Basketball Insiders, citing Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, Cristiano Felicio and Paul Zipser as examples. “A lot of these guys have been in the league for two to three years and haven’t been able to show what they can do, and they’re really excited to get their opportunity to go out there and prove that they belong in this league.”

Of course, there are many detractors in the wake of losing the core that the Bulls did and moving forward with one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, but that will be the ultimate motivator.

“We talk about it every day,” Grant told Basketball Insiders of the negative noise. “It’s gonna feel great to be able to go out there when everybody thinks you’re gonna be so bad and prove ‘em wrong, so that’s something we look forward to. Obviously, guys are counting us out, but we’re excited to show what we can do.”

Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is just as enthusiastic about it as Grant is.

“He’s absolutely right about that,” Hoiberg told Basketball Insiders of the team’s hunger. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are trying to establish themselves as players in this league.

“We’ve got guys that’ll play much bigger roles than they’ve had at any point in their careers, so our effort and competitiveness has been awesome. It’s probably been the best part about our camp.”

Entering his third year as a pro, a lot will be asked of Grant. He’s already establishing himself as one of the captains of the ball club, but now it’s about what he can bring to the court.

Unfortunately this past week, Kris Dunn was injured while attempting to block a dunk against Sterling Brown in a preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He’ll be sidelined for two to four weeks because of a left finger dislocation, meaning Grant will have to step up in his place.

Hoiberg has loved what he’s brought to the table in October, noting that Grant is taking care of the basketball, playing downhill and knifing into the paint to open up looks for his teammates on the perimeter. It’s something he’d like to see continue.

“He had a great offseason,” Hoiberg told Basketball Insiders. “He spent a lot of time in the weight room. He’s noticeably bigger and stronger this year.

“The biggest thing we need [from him] is to continue to have consistency in our pace,” Hoiberg continued. “We’ve got to get that ball up the floor quickly and hopefully strike before the defense gets set, the pace in the half-court with cutting and screening.

“We need good effort on the defensive end and then he’s got to give us consistent minutes where we trust that he’s gonna go out there and make the right play. And again, he’s shown us that he’s got that mindset this year.”

The opportunity is exactly what he’s been aiming for. Not only will this allow Grant to have a platform to flourish, but it will also give him a shot at earning more playing time in the process.

You can bet self-belief will not hinder Grant from achieving his true potential. He knows what he’s already good at, and at the same time, he’s aware of what needs work to get to the next level among his peers.

“I’m definitely confident in getting my guys involved,” Grant told Basketball Insiders. “I think just the makeup of our team—I’mma be one of the guys that has to get people shots and I feel like I’m really confident in doing that.

“And then, just being able to score, you know? Point guards in this league nowadays, you’ve got to get a bucket. It’s not easy getting everybody involved and scoring, but I think that’s something I can do.”

As the season arrives soon and Grant looks to cement himself as a true starting point guard in the NBA, he’s received some advice from a new member of the Bulls staff.

Shawn Respert, formerly an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies, joined the organization as director of player development on August 31 and has been working closely with him.

As soon as Respert stepped foot in the building, he told the recently turned 25-year-old to study a player he knows very well from his time at “The Grindhouse.” Grant is on board with it, too.

“He’s talked to me a lot about Mike Conley,” Grant told Basketball Insiders. “A guy who gets his guys involved, but at the same time plays at his own pace and really understands the game, so I’ve been watching clips of him and I can see a little bit of that in myself.”

Emulating an All-Star caliber point guard who is respected league-wide is a great start to taking that next step, and Hoiberg would be thrilled if that goal comes to fruition.

“The biggest thing that he can learn from Mike Conley is Mike Conley—he’s as good as any in the league at making simple basketball plays,” Hoiberg told Basketball Insiders.

“If he draws two defenders and makes the kick, it doesn’t have to be the spectacular behind-the-back or lob or whatever it is, he just makes good, solid decisions. And that’s what we want out of Jerian.”

Though he’s primarily a drive and kick type of player, Grant has developed into a threat from the three-point line. His rookie year left a lot to be desired in that area of his game, but last season was a drastic improvement.

It was only on an average of two attempts per contest, but he went from 22 percent to 36.6 percent just like *that*. Over five games this preseason, he’s let it fly more and knocked down 41.2 percent of those tries.

“I think a lot of it has to do with confidence, just going out there and just shooting it,” Grant told Basketball of what to credit for his enhanced deep jumper. “But spending a lot of time in the gym.

“Fred’s out there every day in practice putting me through a couple of drills himself, just helping me out a little bit saying put a little more bit of arc on there—and he was a shooter when he played, so that helps.”

Fortunately for Grant, he has a fellow former New York Knick to distribute to and play with as they search for an offensive identity—Justin Holiday.

“He’s been huge for me,” Grant told Basketball Insiders. “He’s a guy who I can kick to and he’s gonna shoot it. A guy who’s talking to me all game, keeping my confidence level up. A guy who’s been around the league and knows the game.”

As far as goals go for Grant, he’s shooting for the stars as an individual and as a member of the Bulls.

“Obviously as a team, we want to win games,” Grant told Basketball Insiders. “The East—everybody knows it’s a little bit down this year, so there’s definitely gonna be some surprise teams, and I feel like we can be one of those teams.

“Personally, I just want to be one of those point guards. I want to be top 10 in assists. I want to be a guy who can score and lead this team.”

It may be seen as shooting for the stars, but if he listens to his coaches, stays persistent and keeps following the credo of his family name, Grant can fulfill his aspirations. After all, he was born to do this.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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