Once a reluctant leader, Bulls guard Kris Dunn suddenly is accepting that role
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Players become leaders in different ways.
Former Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler simply took the role during the 2015-16 season when he realized that Derrick Rose wasn’t suited to lead and that Joakim Noah no longer had the juice to do so.
Bulls point guard Kris Dunn was a bit more reluctant about grabbing that responsibility this season, needing more of a nudge from the coaching staff. Now, though, it finally is happening.
Dunn played a strong game in the Bulls’ victory Wednesday against the Grizzlies, finishing with 21 points, nine assists and three steals. Even more important, his voice was louder than his actions.
‘‘I told you guys that for the rest of the season, you know, that’s what I want to try and bring,’’ Dunn said when he was asked about his emergence as a leader. ‘‘Try to not just do it with action, but be vocal.
‘‘On the defensive end, they feel like I can be one of the best defenders on our team, so I’ve gotta be the linebacker. If I see things, I’ve got to communicate that to my team. On the offensive end, get everybody in the right spots and try and make the right plays.’’
It isn’t that Dunn wasn’t built to lead. In fact, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg agreed last month that Dunn and Butler have a lot of similarities in that department.
What was holding Dunn back was that he is a second-year player in the league in his first season with the Bulls. It was about not wanting to step on anyone’s toes.
Hoiberg said Tuesday that he wanted Dunn not to worry about anyone’s feelings and to focus on leadership, and it didn’t take long for the message to sink in.
‘‘Yeah, I’m trying to do my job,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘We’re all men in here. If I’ve gotta be the bad guy, I have no problem doing it. They all know I have no bad intentions.
‘‘When I’m talking to my teammates, I’m just trying to go out there and compete and win. And I think everybody is trying to do the same thing as me, so I don’t think they take it as me trying to yell and get everybody in the right position as criticism.’’
It will be interesting to see how shooting guard Zach LaVine fits into this. He is more accomplished than Dunn, but his personality is a bit more laid-back. Can he play the bad guy when necessary?
Hoiberg hopes that Dunn, LaVine and, eventually, rookie Lauri Markkanen can combine their leadership abilities and that it becomes something sturdy.
‘‘We’re all [in our] first year as a Bull and all trying to make a good impression on the fans, the teammates, the organization,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘It’s tough. We’re talented, but we’ve got to find a way to build that chemistry, and it starts now. Don’t try and wait too long on it. Get it going now, and then let it resonate through the summer. Try to come back and try to be better.’’
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.