Battling for point guard spot, Kris Dunn dislocates finger and will miss multiple weeks

Battling for point guard spot, Kris Dunn dislocates finger and will miss multiple weeks

The Kris Dunn reclamation project hit a bit of a snag Friday night—literally and figuratively.

Dunn will miss at least the next couple weeks with an open dislocation of his left index finger in an awkward basketball play in the Bulls’ 114-101 preseason win over the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center.

Dunn was having his best outing of the preseason, playing confidently and assuredly before his progress came to a halt, as he’ll lose valuable time picking up the offense and learning to play with his new teammates.

With 8:53 left in the fourth quarter, Bucks guard Sterling Brown made a quick move to the basket for a dunk and foul on Bulls guard David Nwaba. Nwaba made contact with Dunn’s finger and it twisted in what didn’t look like a natural position.

Teammates squirmed.

“I saw it for a second, I had to turn away, I can’t look at things like that,” teammate Justin Holiday said.

“It was almost at a 90-degree angle,” said guard Denzel Valentine.

Fred Hoiberg said he could almost see the tendon on Dunn’s finger, thus explaining the “open dislocation” as the bone went through his skin.

Dunn writhed in pain as he immediately went to the locker room with trainer Jeff Tanaka. Unlike a normal dislocation where a bone can be popped back into place, Dunn’s wound will have to heal after stitches are applied.

If it sounds wrenching, it’s because it is.

“The first thing that will have to be done, Jeff Tanaka popped it back into place. But with the open wound it’ll be at least a couple weeks to get that healed,” Hoiberg said. “He’ll get that stitched up and have an appointment with our hand specialist tomorrow and go from there.”

If one is counting, it means all three participants from the Jimmy Butler trade are all out with injury—Zach LaVine is recovering from an ACL injury, first-round pick Lauri Markkanen is dealing with back spasms and now, Dunn with this injury.

It certainly appears Dunn will miss the season opener against Toronto, which is less than two weeks away, and for the eternal optimist, a game like this could’ve been a confidence builder for the season.

Dunn was aggressive in going to the basket, playing under control and hit his lone 3-point attempt in 16 minutes, hitting five of seven shots to score 11 points. With his outside shooting struggles well known, he took smaller Bucks guards to the midrange area, deliberately setting himself up for easy shots in the 10-foot range.

“Kris was unbelievable tonight. He was ballhawking on defense, getting to the paint, making plays,” Hoiberg said. “His shot was looking really good on that 3 that he hit on the right wing. He looked really comfortable out there.”

Dunn was a big part of the Bulls playing with pace and getting into their offense quickly as opposed to rushing shots, making his case to start opening night as he and Jerian Grant vie for honors.

“Just trying to get my groove. Yesterday was the most shots I took in a game, in awhile. It felt good,” Dunn said at the morning shootaround, speaking of his one-for-nine shooting performance against Dallas Wednesday night.

Grasping Hoiberg’s offense hasn’t been a problem for Dunn, as he’s trying to wash away the negative memories of a bad rookie year in Minnesota with a fresh start in Chicago.

“It’s a lot of read and react,” Dunn said. “Trying to get a good rhythm going into the regular season. I’m a competitor, they want to see that every day out of me. I have to bring that to the team.”

Now that recovery has been put on hold for one of another kind, and more will be known in the days ahead.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened in this game, it can happen to anybody,” Hoiberg said. “He’s gotta keep his spirits high as he goes through the recovery process and hopefully we’ll get him back before too long.”

LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls


LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls

It look a little longer than perhaps LeBron James expected—or maybe not, given the recent woes from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But it happens in a flash—no matter if it is a fadeaway jumper, darting pass through multiple defenders or a swat into the third row for an unsuspecting Cameron Payne, who acted like he hadn’t seen James’ movies.

It took an almost Herculean effort from the game’s best player to put away a pesky Bulls team, 114-109 Saturday at the United Center. James was without several regulars, including Rodney Hood, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Kyle Korver—and his coach, Tyronn Lue, didn’t join the bench in the second half after getting ill.

The no-look passes, the easy drives to the basket, it’s hard to realize he’s playing in his 15th season but he’s at a level few can match, even if his team struggles to keep up.

Whatever he’s lost in athleticism, he’s gained in mastering the game and making sure it’s played at his pace.

Of course, we can quibble with his indifference to defense at times and make note of how that permeates to the rest of the team, as they let the Bulls back in way too many times.

But when you say that, it’s just as easy to see his passing makes his teams unselfish. The Cavs routinely swing the ball from a good shot to a great shot, even if it’s facilitated by James himself, as they had 25 assists on 44 field goals.

“Right now the game is effortless,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “LeBron wants to be a passer first and that’s where he was hurting us early. And then he got loose and got to the rim.”

James led them with 12 in addition to his 33 points and 13 rebounds in 39 minutes, and the Cavaliers needed every bit of his production as the Bulls emptied the reservoir with four of their five regular starters out.

“I just want to get healthy,” James said. “It’s unfamiliar territory for a lot of guys, going in and out the lineup and having six guys out…I think it was a good (road) trip for us.”

The Bulls were missing Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez for various reasons.

Denzel Valentine filled in admirably for a career night and luckily, didn’t throw a cringing behind-the-back pass to the expensive seats. Buoyed by a lax defense from the opposition, he led the Bulls with 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists, hitting eight of 11 from long range in 34 minutes.

If it wasn’t for a late foul on Jordan Clarkson when the Bulls improbably tied the game at 105 with 1:41 left, the Bulls would’ve made things very interesting. But he made contact with Clarkson in the corner and the Cavaliers took a four-point lead.

James got a steal on the next possession and hit a fadeaway to complete his night, his 15th triple-double of the season.

“As soon as I went in a little bit he threw it out there,” Valentine said of James. “And I went to close out and boom. It’s just a learning moment.”

Valentine has earned praise from Hoiberg for filling a leadership void while Lopez and Justin Holiday have taken a backseat due to the organization’s wishes to evaluate young players for the rest of the season.

In the meantime, Valentine hopes he’s proving to be a starter at this level, not just a plug-and-play role player.

“I believe I’m a starter in this league,” Valentine said. “I believe I can be an important piece of an NBA team. But whatever my role on the team is that they want me to do, the organization wants me to do, I’ll do. But personally, I believe I’m a starter and I can contribute in major ways. I just got to keep working and keep getting better.”

Whether he’s a fringe starter or valuable piece off the bench, Valentine has at least shown to develop a consistent jump shot—which in today’s game puts him as a fit on any team. Shooting 39 percent on the season means if the Bulls make him available this offseason, they will have callers.

“It just shows what I’m capable of,” Valentine said. “I believe in myself even when I’m out there playing bad. But I put the work in no matter what happens, if I’m playing well [or], if I’m playing bad.”

His fearlessness, along with Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne, pulled the Bulls back from the brink after the Cavaliers took a 17-point lead before halftime.

Sixteen of his points came in the third, sending the United Center into a frenzy despite the fact a loss would be more beneficial for the franchise considering the New York Knicks destroyed the Charlotte Hornets, paving the way for the Bulls to slide back into eighth in the lottery standings.

Payne did his best to undermine the tank, with a career-high 10 assists go to with 13 points on five of 11 shooting. Portis was solid with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but had a late dunk blocked by Jeff Green.

And combined with Antonio Blakeney getting his shots up anytime he touched the ball, including on fast breaks when the Bulls had multiple-man advantages, just enough was done to give the Cavs the necessary room to end their 13-day road trip on a high note.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in positions they haven’t been in all year,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Cam was unbelievable pushing the pace, especially early in the game.”

Green added 21 and Clarkson came off the bench to score 19. All can thank James for their night—along with a fan he threw his armband to afterward, who was left in tears.

And had the Bulls actually won this game, both James and the Bulls fans would’ve been in tears.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Vincent Goodwill, and Kendall Gill discuss the concern over Zach Lavine’s inconsistent play, plus is it smart for the Bulls to offer him a max contract? Kendall also explains why the Bulls need to be careful not to lowball Lavine, like the Hornets did with him early in his career. Plus the trio discuss the early exit for Oklahoma and Trae Young. He’s likely to be there when the Bulls make their first pick, should they take him? And Vincent shares who the consensus top 5 picks are after talking with several NBA talent evaluators.