Rebound. Defend. Push the ball in transition. Make the simple play.
These have been Chandler Hutchison’s marching orders as he navigates his return after a 5-month absence. The second-year Bulls forward has seemingly always taken the long road to success.
Lightly recruited out of California’s Mission Viejo High School, Hutchison didn’t emerge as a scoring threat until his final two seasons at Boise State. Even there, he was the rare 4-year player before the Bulls used the 22nd pick, acquired in the Nikola Mirotic trade, on him in last June’s draft.
Then, just as his efficiency started to emerge after the Justin Holiday trade to the Grizzlies in January, Hutchison fractured the sesamoid bone in his right foot. That his diagnosis came the night he posted his first NBA double-double made it crueler.
Hutchison is used to speed bumps. He’s also used to overcoming them. And that’s why this is such a big summer for the defensive-minded forward, who averaged 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 26.3 minutes in the Summer League in Las Vegas.
“Every level in my career I have been that [main] guy,” a confident Hutchison said during an interview in Las Vegas when asked about coach Jim Boylen’s expectations. “This is obviously the highest level in the world. The expectations I have on myself, that’s all you can ask for to have someone to have the same expectations. I am going to do what I can to work toward that and be that person.”
Hutchison put work into his rehabilitation. He said he started shooting near the end of the regular season in April but was cleared for full on-court activities only about 3 weeks ago. Boylen said Hutchison also has been battling nagging soreness in his hamstring.
That’s why Hutchison’s first goal for summer league was simple.
“Get through healthy,” he said.
Hutchison had another mission as well.
“Lead the guys,” he said. “Help Coby [White], help Dan [Gafford] in a system I am familiar with for a year to just kind of get used to it and have them keep playing their game. Really, this is for them. This is their first little taste of NBA basketball. So just try to play hard and try to get some wins.”
Hutchison insisted his rookie season wasn’t a wasted one.
“I learned a lot just from watching even when I was out,” he said. “Having that year, people don’t realize what that can do for you confidence-wise.
“A lot of times I was kind of bright-eyed and maybe not ready for the moment. But just having a year and being around the guys and earning their confidence and trust and just working on my game endlessly this summer, I’m going to be in a completely different place mentally and physically.”
Boylen wants Hutchison to learn to play through contact, make good decisions in transition and become a reliable defender.
“We need a stopper,” Boylen said. “We have very difficult matchups just in our division alone, let alone the league. And I want him to grow into a two-way player. ... If we can get a team of multi-ballhandlers and decision makers that have a wide variety of skills, then we’re going to have a good team.”
Hutchison hopes to play a major role on it. It’s all about staying healthy and becoming more consistent.