Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson swore it was simply an oversight due to the combination of a long day and the anxiety that the NBA Draft engenders.
As Paxson was rattling off the key pieces to the Bulls’ rebuild late Thursday night, one name was left out.
You think Kris Dunn had a chip on his shoulder before the draft? Just wait.
“I’ve mentioned many times since the season ended that we haven’t given up on Kris,’’ Paxson said when it was pointed out that Dunn wasn’t mentioned. “He’s a good basketball player. I should’ve mentioned him earlier. I apologize. Long day. Brain is fried. We still value Kris very much.’’
Those words will be tested.
With speedy Coby White taken with the No. 7 pick, the Bulls continued sending the message to Dunn that his 2018-19 season was not good enough. They have had questions about Dunn as their point guard since last offseason, but after the selection of White, all the talk and speculation became reality.
A source indicated that, for now, the Bulls don’t plan to move Dunn — even if there was a trade market calling for him — and Paxson said they feel comfortable going into the season with White and Dunn battling it out in training camp.
“Competition is a part of this business,’’ Paxson said. “You have to have that. The goal for us is to be deeper, more talented. You see in our game today, the successful teams have versatile rosters. We respect Kris Dunn. We want him to come in and work. But nothing can be given to you in this game. And, hey, if he comes in, as we hope, in training camp in great shape and ready to roll, he has every chance to earn any spot he wants — just like any of our guys do.’’
Anyone who knows Dunn, however, knows he will make this personal.
He’s admittedly a “dawg’’ and has insisted several times that he wouldn’t back down from anyone the Bulls bring in to try to take his starting job.
White is not a pure point guard and has some growing to do in key aspects that the Bulls demand from that position, so that works in Dunn’s favor.
“First of all, [White is] 19,’’ Paxson said. “We have to keep that in mind. Most of the guys in this draft aren’t finished products, not anywhere close. Do we believe he will learn and grow? Absolutely. All of our background on him is he’s the type of young man who will take the challenge on.
‘‘I do believe, as we talk as a staff, the way we want to play is you have to play faster in today’s game. You have to get the ball up the floor. This young man can play an up-tempo game.
“Coby White will get better. He’s just starting his career. Our job is to develop him and help him become the best player he can be.’’
Dunn and White share the same agent — Ty Sullivan — but it’s not like White is looking to back down from the situation that awaits him in camp, either.
“I’ve been competing all my life within the team,’’ White said. “When I got to [North Carolina], I had to compete for a starting spot. I had to compete for a point-guard spot. Competing is in my blood. It’s in my DNA. We’re going to go at it, for sure. Kris Dunn is a great, great player. I can’t wait to get there and get to work.’’