Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu wasn’t handed fellow guard Troy Brown Jr.’s minutes; he took them.
In the Bulls’ home victory Monday against the Nets, Dosunmu confirmed why the decision was a smart one.
The former Morgan Park and Illinois star played a key role in the Bulls’ 42-17 domination in the fourth quarter.
There was the three-point play with 9:41 left that put the Bulls ahead by four and kick-started the last-quarter burst. There was the grip-and-rip of an apparent offensive rebound by LaMarcus Aldridge to steal a possession from the Nets. Then there was the three-pointer with 4:56 left that put the Bulls ahead by 14 and snatched any life the Nets had left.
Moments such as those have coach Billy Donovan describing Dosunmu as having the ‘‘ ‘it’ factor.’’
‘‘To me, it’s all about his makeup,’’ Donovan said of Dosunmu. ‘‘You can watch a guy play for 10 minutes and figure out if he can play or not. It takes a long time to figure out that ‘it’ factor. He’s got the ‘it’ factor. And what I mean by that is, he’s gonna impact the game.
‘‘And he’s got a great drive. He’s incredibly motivated. He balances really well that line of being confident but not coming across as arrogant. He’s a fearless competitor. And I think that kind of mindset is gonna serve him well going forward. He can’t lose that because, to me, that’s gotta be his identity.’’
It’s an identity Dosunmu has used to play himself into the Bulls’ rotation, while Brown has continued slipping into the shadows.
In four of the first five games of the season, Brown got double-digit minutes of playing time. Dosunmu was getting mostly mop-up minutes and didn’t play at all in Toronto.
Oh, how things have changed. Dosunmu is averaging 17.8 minutes in the last five games, while Brown has logged five minutes total.
The reason is simple: Dosunmu is helping the Bulls win. Sure, the United Center crowd feeds off cheering on one of their own, but Dosunmu simply has made more of an impact than Brown. The crowd recognizes that, and Dosunmu’s teammates feel it.
‘‘Whether it’s guarding somebody, being ready to knock down a shot, being in transition, being aggressive, getting downhill, finishing,’’ veteran forward DeMar DeRozan said of Dosunmu. ‘‘He does a lot of things that you don’t see in a lot of young guys in their first year.
‘‘And it makes it even sweeter being home for him, getting the crowd behind us. If he sneezes out there, the crowd gets excited. So you’ve definitely gotta feed off it.’’
But for how long? Coby White has been cleared for full contact after having offseason surgery on his left shoulder and is scheduled to start practicing with the team. The reason Brown and Dosunmu were getting playing time was because there was a vacancy left by White.
With the second unit looking for scoring, especially from beyond the three-point arc, White seemingly would be a better fit. There is one problem with that, however: White isn’t the two-way player Dosunmu has shown himself to be. The Bulls might need that more than White’s streaky shooting.
The Sun-Times tabbed White as a possible trade candidate in the preseason, and there is growing thought nationally that he might be looked at around the deadline early next year.
Until then, however, Donovan will be walking a fine line with a crowded backcourt.
‘‘Whether coach Donovan plays me two minutes or 15 to 20 minutes, I try to come in with energy and positivity and just have fun,’’ Dosunmu said. ‘‘I try to impact the game any way I can.’’