October 4, 2022

Marko Simonović bulks up, hopes to increase role originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The first thing that stands out about Marko Simonović is his increased size. The Chicago Bulls sophomore big man said he weighed 240 pounds, up from 215 before.

The next thing is perhaps more subtle but perhaps just as telling: his English has improved a lot, as has his fluency in media sessions.

The Montenegro native, who turns 23 in October, had a largely overlooked rookie season filled with dominating G League moments and a few overflowing raking minutes at the NBA level. But for a team lacking rim protection and shooting, there could be an opportunity for ‘Marko minutes’.

Which may not yet be a thing or a nickname. But given his increased confidence and bulk, who knows?

“I work every day to be ready and to earn some minutes in the NBA,” Simonović said this week at the Advocate Center during the preparation for the NBA Summer League.

A second-round pick in Artūras Karnišovas’ first draft as executive vice president of basketball operations, Simonović was always seen as a draft. Unlike the second-round pick the Bulls entered in 2021 in Ayo Dosunmu, Simonović lacked physical strength on the field and had never lived in the United States.

He thanked management, the coaching staff and his teammates for helping his transition. He may have formed his closest bond with Nikola Vučević, another with Montenegrin ties, with whom he trained in Serbia this summer.

“Vooch is my mentor. He’s like my big brother here. I’m so happy to have him here in Chicago,” Simonović said. “He helped me for sure on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Assistant coach John Bryant, who serves as the summer league’s head coach, noted not only Simonović’s increased size and strength, but also improved decision-making. He had Simonović work with Dosunmu in both screen and roll situations and praised the big man’s improved decision-making.

“His hands have improved, as well as his body. He probably hasn’t gotten the calls he would like. But he’s able to finish through contact through his body,” Bradley said. a lot with Ayo. So there was one day in practice where he was just rolling after rolling after rolling. His decision-making on those rolls, whether to finish him or pass it to the wing side, has improved a lot.

Simonović averaged 17 points and 9.9 rebounds in 28 G League games with the Windy City Bulls. He shot 53% overall but only 26.9% from 3 points. That number needs to improve if Simonović is to become a reliable pick-and-pop option, which was touted as a strength when drafted. But at 6-foot-11 and on a team lacking in forwards, he could also contribute rebounding, screening, passing and rim protection.

The good news for Bulls fans is that Simonović has admitted that this season will bring less adjustment to questions off the pitch.

“It was a bit difficult for me because it was my first year in the United States. And I was running every day — on the pitch, off the pitch, how to live here and how to figure it all out,” Simonović said. “It’s a process. I know it’s not all in a year. I need time to understand everything and learn everything. I think I have improved a lot, but I have a lot of room to improve.

The commitment is there. His physique is proof of that. He said many teammates and coaches commented on his mass.

“I’m so happy to hear that because I really work. Every day I try to improve my body and build muscle. The last two months I have done that,” he said. “And when I came back here, everyone said I looked better than before. Just keep working.

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