Point-guard play still a bit uncertain, but Bulls win preseason opener

SHARE Point-guard play still a bit uncertain, but Bulls win preseason opener
SHARE Point-guard play still a bit uncertain, but Bulls win preseason opener

NEW ORLEANS — Bulls vice president John Paxson isn’t living with regret these days. He made that clear at the start of training camp.

‘‘You can always look back and make judgments,’’ Paxson said when he was asked if the front office decided to rebuild too early. ‘‘I firmly believe that when we sat there on draft night and made that deal [involving Jimmy Butler], it was the right thing to do for the future. . . . We don’t regret what we did.’’

The jury is still out on that one.

Yes, it was only the preseason opener, but the Pelicans’ Rajon Rondo — one of the departed ‘‘Three Alphas’’ from last season — not only showed the Bulls how much they’ll miss his leadership, but he also exposed the uncertainty they still have at point guard.

Rondo finished with only five points and eight assists in the Bulls’ 113-109 victory, but he ran the Pelicans’ offense like a maestro at the start.

The Bulls’ point-guard play? Call it a bit confusing.

In a bit of a surprising move, they decided to start Jerian Grant over Kris Dunn at the point after the front office had said numerous times that Dunn, rookie 7-footer Lauri Markkanen and rehabbing guard Zach LaVine are the three centerpieces of the rebuild.

It would seem to make sense to get Dunn as many minutes as possible with the starters, especially with LaVine (knee) and Markkanen (back) out with injuries. Considering the lack of minutes Dunn played as a rookie last season with the Timberwolves, playing time would seem precious for him.

‘‘The thing I’ve been most impressed with [Grant] about — and this goes back to our minicamp before summer league — is the leadership qualities he showed,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of going with Grant over Dunn. ‘‘Obviously, that’s a big thing moving forward with such a young team.

‘‘And he has played well. He has gotten us into an offense. Defensively, he has been much better as far as his consistent pickup point. And he has shot well. I’ve been happy with both those guys.’’

The good news was that Dunn didn’t take it personally and seemed to understand he’s going to have to earn the starting job if he wants it.

‘‘Both good point guards, both want to take on that leadership,’’ Dunn said of Hoiberg’s decision. ‘‘I think it’s good for us. We’re not really out here trying to battle each other. We’re trying to provide for our team and get the most wins we can here.’’

That won’t be the case if the Bulls play defense like they did in the first quarter. Yes, the Bulls played with pace, scoring 30 points and shooting 6-for-14 from three-point range in the first. The problem is, the NBA isn’t a make-it-and-take-it league.

The Pelicans lit up assistant Jim Boylen’s defense for 46 points on 14-for-20 shooting in the quarter and got very little resistance.

As for the Grant-Dunn battle, Grant finished with 11 points and nine assists and Dunn with 11 points and three assists.

The Bulls, meanwhile, grabbed control of the game in the third quarter and finished with eight players in double figures.

‘‘I think we both handled it well,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘We both encouraged one another, and we both went out there and played well.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

RELATED STORIES

Jerian Grant hopes locking arms during the anthem is only the start

Draft-day disappointment? Denzel Valentine staying clear of that talk


The Latest
The shooting happened about 10:40 p.m. near Chicago Avenue and State Street. Fire officials said the eight wounded were taken to hospitals in serious to critical condition.
A man, 46, was crossing the street in the 5600 block of West Irving Park Road about 10:50 p.m. when he was fatally struck by a motorcyclist going west, police said.
Tiger Woods winced his way to a 4-over 74 on the same course where he won the 2009 PGA.
The 21-year-old went into the water with friends about 8:10 p.m. in the 9800 block of South Walton Drive, Chicago police said.