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Bulls’ season already on brink of failure with Kris Dunn out 4 to 6 weeks

Reporters gathered Tuesday at the Advocate Center expecting to hear how Bulls guard Zach LaVine and coach Fred Hoiberg had cleared the air in the wake of LaVine’s questioning of sets and execution in Monday’s loss at Dallas.

Instead, a season of promise has turned to thoughts of the Bulls returning to the draft lottery.

Minutes before the start of practice, Hoiberg was informed that guard Kris Dunn’s mildly sore left knee after Monday night’s loss in Dallas — his first regular-season game after the birth of his son Oct. 18 — was in fact a sprained medial collateral ligament that will sideline him for four to six weeks.

With Lauri Markkanen (right elbow) and Denzel Valentine (left ankle) also currently sidelined, it’s yet another gut-punch in Year 2 of the team’s rebuild.

“It’s tough,” Hoiberg said. “We obviously missed Kris in our first two games. Now, to have him out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s extremely difficult. When you have a guy who is out there and really made strides over the course of last season, and [with] the summer he had and the way he played during training camp, it’s difficult to miss him. Same obviously goes with Lauri, with the summer he had. It is what it is. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. It’s next man up, ready to go.”

Maybe, but as with Markkanen’s injury, this setback could be mammoth, affecting not just the development of another core player but the job security of Hoiberg and his coaching staff.

Spate of injuries hitting Bulls is hindering the supposed rebuild
Bulls’ Zach LaVine does some finger-pointing after loss, including at himself

For now, Hoiberg’s “next man up” looks to be Cameron Payne at starting point guard — the same Payne whom several former Bulls have deemed “not an NBA player.” Payne had better resemble one soon; following him on the depth chart are Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaq Harrison and Tyler Ulis.

“It gives guys great opportunity to show what they can do,” Hoiberg said. “We’re thankful we recently picked up Shaq Harrison, who is going to have to most likely get some minutes and see what he has and if he has a future with this organization. We’ve liked Arcidiacono and some of the things he has done as well, and how he has grown as a player.”

As for LaVine’s comments about the Bulls’ sets in the second half against the Mavericks, he said he and Hoiberg spoke and that their relationship seems to be fine.

“I mean, I feel like I didn’t say anything wrong,” LaVine said. “Coach didn’t take anything personal from it. He knows I’m a competitive dude, and we talked about it. Yeah, I let him know how I felt. We’re all on good terms. I’m trying to be a leader. I’m trying to be a leader on the court and off the court. Obviously, I’ve got a lot of room to grow with things on the court and off the court as well, so I’m just trying to be better.”

Hoiberg had a similar takeaway.

“I know Zach has the right intentions,” he said. “I know he wants to get better and help our team get better. I won’t reveal exactly what we had in our conversation, but it was very productive, and I’m confident moving forward Zach’s going to continue to grow with his leadership.”