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Bulls guard Kris Dunn still hoping to return with four games left

NEW YORK — Bulls guard Kris Dunn said Monday he still wants to play this season.

The logical question after he made that proclamation was, ‘‘Why?’’

‘‘I love to hoop, for sure, for sure,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘And we’ve got some guys down. Yeah, that’s the kind of game I like.’’

Dunn missed his fourth consecutive game Monday against the Knicks with a strained back, but he took the court before the game at Madison Square Garden to test it. Still, there’s no guarantee he will return this season with only four games left.

‘‘That’s what I strive for,’’ Dunn said of a return. ‘‘I think [Monday was] going to determine how things are going.’’

The Bulls were scheduled to fly to Washington after the game, and Dunn will have a better idea about how his back feels on the day off Tuesday. He tried to play through the injury March 23 against the Jazz but lasted only 21 minutes.

‘‘Oh, yeah, I couldn’t move out there,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘Once I was hit by a screen, everything was just activated, and I wasn’t able to do too much. The whole back tightens up, and you can’t react as quick as you want to, you can’t run as fast as you can, breathing shortens.’’

As for the other injured Bulls, things pretty much have been determined at this point. Big man Lauri Markkanen (rapid heart rate) made the trip but already has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Forward Otto Porter Jr. (right shoulder) also made the trip, but he seems unlikely to return at this point. And guard Zach LaVine (tendinitis in right knee) wasn’t even on the trip.

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Coach Jim Boylen said Dunn might have the best chance to return, but that continues to be discussed daily.

‘‘That’s been discussed,’’ Boylen said when he was asked about shutting everyone down. ‘‘That decision hasn’t been made. That’s a collaborative, collective decision by everybody. So every day we kind of have those talks, and all I can tell you is it’s being discussed, but nothing has been done.’’

Even if the entire core is shut down, Boylen said valuable lessons have been learned moving forward.

‘‘I think we have identified some real positive things on how we’re going to play,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I think the multiple-ballhandler system has been good for us.

‘‘Defensively, we’ve been real good some nights and really poor some nights. I’d like us to be more consistent there. I’d like to see some more toughness at that end of the floor.’’

Value of winning

LaVine knows both sides of the argument: Should teams in the Bulls’ position win games or tank in an effort to get a better position in the draft lottery?

‘‘The hardest thing in the NBA — I feel like in any sport — is learning how to win,’’ LaVine said before the trip. ‘‘I think you have to build that and you have to learn how to go through those ups and downs and those tough situations in a game because every game isn’t going to be the same.’’