The fall was nasty and the concussion was substantial for Kris Dunn. But at second blush the Bulls are thankful it wasn’t worse.
Given the way his body jerked after Dunn released himself from the rim, the Bulls are glad he didn’t suffer a neck injury in addition to the concussion and dislocated front teeth.
“It could have been a major, major injury,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Obviously, it is a significant one with the concussion. You can't take these things lightly, but with the way that he fell and hit head first, we're really thankful that he'll be back hopefully before too long. But obviously we'll take things very cautiously, a cautious approach with this because of how significant concussions are. But hopefully we'll get him back soon.”
Dunn has braces on the front teeth to stabilize them, and Hoiberg said he’ll see the doctor every day over the next several days, per the league's concussion protocol. There’s a chance Dunn could join the Bulls on the three-game road trip, but he’ll miss at least Saturday’s game in Atlanta. The Bulls travel to New Orleans on Monday and Philadelphia on Wednesday.
It’s the second freak injury Dunn has suffered this season, in addition to dislocating his finger in the preseason. He struggled with it initially upon returning but recently had shown no signs of issues with it.
Dealing with a concussion and also a mouth injury makes things more complicated as far as his playing style. He plays aggressive and fast, bordering on recklessness occasionally.
Hoiberg doesn’t believe that will change when Dunn returns.
“I don't think it's going to change the way Kris plays,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously it was very unfortunate in the timing because he had a couple of really good plays there to get things really turned in our favor and get the momentum going down the stretch and they get a called timeout and get a layup out of it right away. Then we still had our chances late in that game. Kris was responsible as anybody for getting that game to striking distance. Unfortunately, we just couldn't make the plays we needed to to get the win.”
The more conservative style of Jerian Grant will take over in Dunn’s absence. Grant has been steady as a backup, averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 assists. Unlike Dunn, though, Grant hasn’t had issues with turnovers, at a four-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio this year.
Teams will dare Grant to beat them from the outside, as he’s missed 15 of his 16 3-point attempts this month.
“I've been here before, so I'm prepared. I've started a lot of games so far in my career, so I'm ready for it,” Grant said. “The last time I started, we got a win. I did what I had to do so I'm prepared to do whatever we need to do to get a win.”
Where Grant will receive relief is from Zach LaVine getting clearance for more minutes, as he’ll play in the fourth quarters and will have his minute-restriction increased to 24 minutes.
LaVine will likely play some point guard during stretches, and is shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range in the small sample size of three games and 19.7 minutes.
“We're not going to overextend him right now because he's still obviously very early in the process as far as getting back on the floor and getting in game shape,” Hoiberg said. “We don't want to get him fatigued out there so we'll keep his rotation stretches short. But wee will hopefully have him available some in the fourth quarter to give us what Kris does down the stretch, who's been as good as anybody on our team as far as helping out close games.”