No Bulls participated in the All-Star Game on Sunday, but the organization was still well-represented during the weekend.
Zach LaVine tested out his analyst skills, joining the broadcast team for the dunk contest on Saturday night, and he even teased his return to the contest next season.
Lauri Markkanen stood out in the Rising Stars game Friday and made it to the finals of the skills competition Saturday.
And then there was Kris Dunn, who had nine points, five assists and three steals in the Rising Stars game as well as some vindication.
Dunn’s journey to the Bulls has been well-documented. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft and had a rough rookie season behind a handful of talented players in Minnesota. Dunn took a beating from the critics as a result. He spent the early part of the summer reading that he was a bust.
“For sure, last year was a tough year for me and my family,’’ Dunn said. “But I don’t try to worry about what the outsiders say. I know what happened. I know my game. It was just about putting the work in during the summer.’’
A change of address also played a big part in his ascent.
Dunn and LaVine were part of the package that was sent to the Bulls in exchange for All-Star Jimmy Butler, and Dunn might have been the hardest piece for Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau to part with.
He knew what was coming.
During the last exit meeting after his rookie year, Dunn had every opportunity to complain and point fingers in Thibodeau’s direction, but instead he calmly asked Thibodeau what he could do to get better.
Thibodeau laid out a plan that consisted of taking a few weeks off, then working out at the team facility Monday through Thursday once a day. The weekends were Dunn’s to do whatever he pleased.
Thibodeau quickly saw Dunn taking only one day off and working out at the facility twice a day, Monday through Sunday. Time off be damned.
“That’s when I knew this kid was going to have a special second season,’’ Thibodeau said. “He had the work ethic to improve.’’
Dunn appreciated the compliment.
“Coming from him, it’s definitely good,’’ Dunn said. “If any coach compliments a player, you’re going to feel good about yourself. He saw the work I put in this summer when I was in Minnesota before I got traded. I was there almost Monday through Sunday. I was really trying to get back, trying to prove people wrong and get my respect back. He saw me in the gym for long hours. I was putting the work in. It feels good to be recognized.’’
The remaining 25 games of the regular season will be similar for Dunn: putting that work in and showing his new organization that it not only has a point guard of the future, but a three-piece foundation that also includes LaVine and Markkanen.
And all that chatter about Dunn somehow being a bust? It’s not even a whisper.
“I’ve got a great support system,’’ Dunn said. “They were with me throughout the tough times in Minnesota. For Chicago to let me come in and hug me with open arms, it was a good feeling. I just worked hard and tried to improve each game.
“That’s my mindset the rest of this season. We’ve got everyone back now, and it’s time to show what we can be.’’
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