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Isaiah Canaan returns to Philadelphia, proving he's more than a shooter
There's no escaping the reality of a 10-72 record. But you won't hear Isaiah Canaanspeak ill of his 76ers tenure.
Beyond the fact Canaan used his one-plus seasons in Philadelphia to prove he's an NBArotation player, the Bulls guard is proud of how hard he and his teammates played, how prepared the coaching staff made sure they were.
In fact, any outward perception that last season's 76ers were a futile bunch bothers Canaan.
"We didn't hold our head with wins and losses," Canaan said. "We knew you had to keep playing hard. We were young, but we tried to learn from our mistakes.
"Coach (Brett) Brown made sure we played with energy. He made us look at things not only on the court but things that were going on in the world. He kept us up and kept us motivated. He had a good game plan every night and had us ready to play."
Now, Canaan returns to Philadelphia as the Bulls close their six-game trip. A victory would secure just the third winning record on the annual — and last — circus trip since the dynasty ended.
It's a funny thing, labels or outside opinions.
When the Bulls signed the former second-round pick of the Rockets in free agency, the consensus scouting report screamed "volume shooter." That's what taking 485 3-pointers in 77 games can do.
But Canaan has taken advantage of his new situation and new role to prove he can do more than just launch 3-pointers. With the Bulls, he's more jack-of-all-trades than one who jacks shots.
"My natural position is point guard," Canaan said. "I'm just blessed with the ability to shoot. People try to put me in the category as a shooting guard. I take it personally because I'm able to do other things. I can run offense. I can create. I hate being labeled as just a shooter.
"People don't think I can play defense. And that's one of the things I pride myself on, so I'm glad to be in a position where I can continue to show what I can do."
Indeed, Canaan has demonstrated a consistent ability to pick up opposing guards full-court, trying to make them uncomfortable and shave a few extra seconds off the shot clock before the offense is set. At 6-foot, Canaan's size limitations are as unavoidable as the 76ers' won-lost record. But he said he devours film to try to be a strong, positional team defender to offset those as much as possible.
Coach Fred Hoiberg's trust in Canaan became quickly apparent this season. Another example came when Canaan was on the floor late and missed the game-winning attempt in Denver, albeit as the third option.
Canaan moved ahead of first-round pick Denzel Valentine in the rotation when Valentine missed most of training camp with an ankle injury. And he's likely to remain there even when Michael Carter-Williams returns from his bruised left knee and sprained left wrist. The Bulls sent Carter-Williams, who is close to four weeks into the original four- to six-week timeline for his return, back to Chicago for an MRI on his left wrist.
"Coming in, everyone said Fred was high on me," Canaan said. "That's confidence right there. It helps to play under somebody who really wants you a part of the team. As soon as I got here, they were on me, telling me what they expected of me and helping me get better each day.
"I get to learn from a Hall of Famer (Dwyane Wade). I've got good guys around me in Jimmy Butler, (Rajon) Rondo, Taj Gibson to help me continue to grow and develop as a player. I don't take anything for granted."
Layups: The Bulls held a Thanksgiving dinner gathering after a morning practice at Temple University. ... The 76ers are scheduled to rest Joel Embiid. The former No. 3 pick, who missed his first two seasons with foot injuries, has put up impressive numbers when he has played.