The Bulls are finding out that life without Kris Dunn is definitely no picnic
The answers are very similar.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Bulls player or coach Fred Hoiberg.
There’s the initial gushing about how much they miss Kris Dunn, followed quickly by how this is a no-excuse team.
“We still have the players to step up in his absence and take that spot,” forward Denzel Valentine said. “The guys are right here in this locker room.”
Occupy the point guard’s spot? No doubt. Play to the level at which Dunn was playing before he fell on his face almost three weeks ago and suffered two dislocated teeth and a concussion? Not even close.
That has become glaring during this seven-game losing streak.
Dunn’s absence not only has shown how important he is to Hoiberg’s space-and-pace offense, but how much his toughness has been missed on -defense.
Since Dunn was injured in the loss to the Warriors on Jan. 17, the Bulls have gone 1-7. For the season, they are 3-10 when Dunn was sidelined.
Without top rookie Lauri Markkanen, who has missed six games this season, the Bulls are 3-3.
“Kris is a dynamic player,” Valentine said. “He sets a tone on defense, and he’s pushing right back on offense. That’s not an excuse for our effort lately, but it’s kind of a problem, too, because we’re kind of dazed right now with the different lineups, being short-handed.”
Before his fall, Dunn was playing the best basketball of his short NBA career. He finished December averaging 14.9 points and eight assists per game in leading the Bulls to a 10-6 record for the month. More important, he emerged as the closer late in games.
That carried into January, with Dunn averaging 14.7 points and 7.4 assists.
His replacement, Jerian Grant, has tried to pick up the slack, but there’s a reason he’s a reserve.
Twice in the last 10 days, Grant was unable to handle the offense when the opposition pressed him, the latest time coming in the 104-98 loss Monday in Sacramento.
“Kris is one of the better players on the team,” guard Zach LaVine said. “A really tough mindset, and we want him out here. He’s the point guard of the team.
“It will be really good to get him back. We’re going to be OK, but we’ve got to figure it out. Somebody in here has to bring that energy, that toughness into the game to get us going in the first five minutes. We’re still trying to figure that out.”
It’s an issue that doesn’t exist when Dunn is on the floor.
Like former Bull Jimmy Butler, Dunn’s background growing up instilled a no-nonsense approach to the game. Add in some swagger, and there are just some intangibles that can’t be replaced.
The bad news for the Bulls is that Dunn is just getting out of the concussion protocol. He’ll practice with Windy City this week but is still iffy for the weekend. The good news is that the Bulls finally might have found the point guard of the future they’ve been searching for the last few seasons.
“Well, we miss him, there’s no doubt about that, but you can’t use that as an excuse,” Hoiberg said. “Kris is a guy that’s shown that he can be relied on. He’s really evolved into the closer for this team, and when we had that great month in December, he was a huge part of that.”
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