Jabari Parker’s tenure with the Bulls wasn’t supposed to sour so quickly.
After spending his first four NBA seasons 90 miles north of his hometown of Chicago with the Bucks, the former Simeon standout was expected to be another piece in the Bulls’ rebuild.
When he signed a two-year, $40 million contract during the 2018 offseason, it was supposed to bring clarity to both his future and the Bulls’.
“Jabari is a 23-year-old player who is a natural fit with our young core and is a proven scorer at the NBA level,” general manager Gar Forman said in a statement after signing the 6-8 forward. “We look forward to welcoming him back to his hometown.”
But the homecoming came to an abrupt end, even though Parker, in hindsight, called his time with the Bulls an “overall good experience.”
Coach Jim Boylen benched him for 12 of 13 games from Dec. 12 to Jan. 11 after Boylen replaced Fred Hoiberg on Dec. 3. While Parker grew disconnected, Boylen said he needed to play harder and honor the team’s values.
He was eventually traded Feb. 6 to the Wizards, along with Bobby Portis and a 2023 second-round pick, for forward Otto Porter Jr.
Parker’s relationship with Boylen as coach was in stark contrast to how it was before Boylen, previously an assistant, took over from Hoiberg.
“Just to see that relationship go sour — not from my end but from his end — was just bad,” Parker said in February after returning to the United Center as a visitor with the Wizards. “I understand it’s his decision and whatever, but it was just hard.”
In 25 games with the Wizards, Parker averaged 15 points and 7.2 rebounds on 52.3 percent shooting from the field.
Parker, now an unrestricted free agent after the Wizards declined his team option for the 2019-20 season, shared his thoughts on his time with the Bulls and Wizards, his favorite food spots in Chicago and more during a visit to the Chat Room.
Describe your time in Chicago.
Jabari Parker: It was personal growth for me. It was a situation I was very foreign to. But in all reality, everything is meant for us to grow. I was just grateful to grow from that situation.
Do you feel like athletes from Chicago who play for the Bulls are treated differently than non-Chicagoans?
JP: Yeah, I say that the proof is there. I can’t comment on things I don’t know — I’m only saying things that are facts. With Derrick [Rose], his situation ended pretty bitter. With [Dwyane Wade], his situation ended pretty bitter. For myself, it wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
What would you have liked to have seen done differently?
JP: I feel like if they can just be patient and take chances. This isn’t even about myself. This is about just people in general. People are going to have ups and downs, but it’s just about taking a chance and really seeing them grow.
Do you feel like they weren’t patient enough with you?
JP: Not with me, I wouldn’t say that. Because I’ve done what I did. It’s just the name and nature of the game.
Describe your time in Washington.
JP: Man, my time in Washington was everything and more. It was like being in jail for a couple of months, and then when you’re free, you just want to be yourself again and catch up on lost times. Those guys in Washington are always going to be on the top of my list as far as my loyalty goes.
What was so great about your experience with the Wizards?
JP: I just wasn’t thinking. I was just out there. I didn’t have to deal with inconsistencies. I didn’t have to deal with mind games. I had coaches there that were very mature — they were players’ coaches. That’s one thing I really loved about them.
There’s a new Simeon guy in the league now — Talen Horton-Tucker from Iowa State, whom the Lakers selected with the No. 46 draft pick. How does it feel for you to see him in the league?
JP: It’s always good to have people from my school accomplish great things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be just basketball. I want to see more people do other things from my school.
What’s the best Harold’s in Chicago?
JP: The best Harold’s is probably the one near Congress — a little south of Congress. My teammate O.J. Mayo has one that’s near Ogden and Madison. I didn’t grow up around Harold’s much. My chicken shack was Leon’s on 79th and Stony Island.
What’s your favorite ’90s jam?
JP: There’s so many of them, but I grew up on a lot of Dr. Dre, Snoop and Warren G. Those West Coast guys, because my brother lived in California for a long time. Those are the dudes I like.
What’s your favorite pizza place in the city?
JP: Mainstream is probably like Gino’s East. The hole-in-the-wall pizza place is Italian Fiesta.
Deep-dish or thin-crust?
JP: Thin-crust because I don’t like too much cheese.
What’s a hobby of yours not many people know about?
JP: I think people know about my love for cars — my infatuation for cars. Specifically the old ones. I’m just always around my cars. My favorite brand is Cadillac. Those are the ones I collect the most.
What’s your favorite car you own?
JP: It’s a tie between my ’62 Cadillac Park Avenue and my ’64 Coupe de Ville.
What’s your next career move?
JP: It’s going to come real soon. It comes soon for everybody. I really want to be a philanthropist. I want to have a great career so I can do that and be involved with a lot of people from my neighborhood.