Fred Hoiberg says the next step for Kris Dunn is consistency

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Bulls’ game Wednesday against the Raptors was a struggle for point guard Kris Dunn.

A 1-for-6, two-point struggle, to be exact.

On Friday against the Mavericks, Dunn established a career high, lighting up Rookie of the Year candidate Dennis Smith Jr. to the tune of 32 points.

On Saturday against the Pacers, he struggled again. He scored eight points on 4-for-10 shooting and was a minus-28 in the Bulls’ 125-86 loss.

Welcome to the next step in Dunn’s maturation process.

‘‘Just the consistency,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. ‘‘The turnovers were something he had gotten much better at over the course of the year. And he regressed a little bit [Monday against the Trail Blazers] where he had eight. Those are things that can’t happen. We know they probably will, still being so early in his career.

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‘‘But Kris has been great for us. He has really established himself in a leadership-type position. He has made big plays for us down the stretch. We’ve been really impressed with Kris’ work ethic and basketball IQ.’’

That’s why Hoiberg met with Dunn before the game against the Mavericks and basically handed him the reins to the offense. He wants Dunn to feel comfortable enough to call his own plays, rather than have to look over his shoulder at the bench to see what set Hoiberg wants to run.

‘‘Coach felt like he had more trust in me,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘I appreciate Coach for having that trust in me.’’

Hoiberg met with Dunn again before the game against the Pacers, this time reiterating the positives. What Hoiberg really likes about Dunn, however, is that his demeanor doesn’t change much whether he’s playing well or not.

‘‘He really is steady,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Even after he had a couple of tough performances, he bounced back with a great attitude the next day in practice when we watched film. And even [Friday] night after the game, he walked onto the plane, went and got his [film] clips, sat down and watched them. I had a good talk with him [Saturday] morning, just with the positives he did.

‘‘He’s really level right now, which you have to be in this league to have success. You can’t let your highs get too high or your lows get too low, and Kris has done a really nice job with that.’’

This and that

Backup big man Cristiano Felicio was supposed to meet up with the Bulls on Saturday in Indianapolis, but the team opted to keep him with its G League affiliate in Chicago, so he could continue to get more work.

• Point guard Cameron Payne had surgery on his right foot Sept. 8, and the latest scan came back clean enough for him to start full physical activity. But there still is no timetable for him to resume basketball activity.

The Bulls initially said Payne would miss four months, but he will be out longer than that, with mid-February looking like a possibility for his return. He is expected to be the third point guard behind Dunn and Jerian Grant.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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