After a film session and hourlong practice Saturday afternoon, many Bulls remained on the Spurs’ home floor to put up extra shots.
Christmas Eve beckoned, but a bunch of reserves wanted overtime. Coach Fred Hoiberg supplied 10 minutes of running clock for a full-court scrimmage that included Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, Isaiah Canaan, R.J. Hunter, Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser.
“Losers buy Chick-fil-A,” Jimmy Butler hollered.
More bodies were needed to round out the five-on-five, so Chase Buford joined in. A former walk-on guard at Kansas for coach Bill Self, Buford can play. But his “day job” is to be the Bulls coordinator of player development, so compared to the pros …
Let’s just say that when the exercise finally ended, Buford’s face was tomato red and his shirt was drenched in sweat.
“Sorry you had to see that,” he joked.
Running with the Bulls is a perk of the job. And this trip to San Antonio could not have come at a more fortuitous time, allowing for a dinner with family members on the eve of a Christmas Day duel with the Spurs.
“When the schedule came out,” Buford said, “my mom was almost in tears, she was so happy.”
Buford, 28, grew up in San Antonio, the son of Spurs executive R.C. Buford. Gregg Popovich hired the elder Buford, a former Kansas assistant under Larry Brown, to be the team’s head scout in 1994. He moved up the chain and became general manager in 2002.
Among the players he championed was Tony Parker, whom the Spurs drafted in 2001 when he was a 19-year-old Belgium-born guard playing in France. Parker bonded with the younger Buford.
“My dad was always great about when we signed guys, especially foreign guys, to take them out to dinner and get them acclimated to the city,” Chase Buford said. “When Tony came to the States, he was 19 and I was about 13. There were a lot of family dinners — and I was addicted to soccer. I love Tony, Manu (Ginobili) and obviously Tim (Duncan) was the god.”
Chase’s mother, Beth, competed on the LPGA Tour and his sister, Chelsea, qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur and now coaches women’s golf at the College of Charleston. Two adopted brothers played college basketball.
“I somehow missed out on the athletic genes,” Buford said with a chuckle. “Everyone else is pretty damn good. The culture of our family was, we didn’t meet for dinners very often because we were at practices or games or Spurs games. But it was fun and exciting.”
Buford did play three seasons at Kansas, logging 36 appearances and contributing as a member of the 2008 national championship team.
“(Self) was awesome,” Buford said. “From 1-15, I don’t think I had one teammate who didn’t love him. Playing for a guy who is passionate and emotional, fun and funny, the swagger we got to play with in college was a direct reflection of his personality.”
Now Buford, who sits behind the Bulls bench during games, aims to help Hoiberg get the best from his players.
“Chase came in as an intern last year and he blew me away with his work ethic and his understanding of the game, his IQ,” Hoiberg said. “Coming from the Spurs system, being around those guys a lot, really gave us some good ideas. He’s a great worker.”
Buford will break down film, work with individuals and — when the need arises — huff and puff to get through a full-court scrimmage.