Bulls move on with Cam Payne after another 'unlucky' injury for Kris Dunn

Bulls move on with Cam Payne after another 'unlucky' injury for Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn has battled through minor bumps and bruises during his brief NBA career. So when he landed awkwardly on his left knee in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks, he figured he had simply bruised something as he hobbled back down court.

Team doctors looked at Dunn after the game and he didn’t even mention the injury when speaking to reporters in Dallas. It wasn’t until the Bulls boarded the plane late Monday evening that Dunn began to feel discomfort in the knee. Upon returning home the knee began to lock up on him, and it got worse even as he iced it to help with the pain.

An MRI on Tuesday morning revealed that Dunn had suffered a moderate sprain in his left MCL, an injury that will keep him out for 4 to 6 weeks at a time when the 0-3 Bulls need their point guard most. It’s not the first injury for Dunn, but he scoffed at the notion that he’s prone to these injuries after suffering his fourth – finger, head and toe injuries kept him out last season – injury since arriving in Chicago in the Jimmy Butler trade.

“I think it’s unlucky. It comes with the game,” Dunn said. “I can either cry about it or try to work my way around it. I’m going to stay positive, be a man about it. Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to rehab the best I can, get back on the floor and work.”

Dunn had missed the first two games of the season due to the birth of his first child, Lennox. He was clearly shaking off rust in Monday’s loss, finishing with 9 points, 7 assists and 4 turnovers in 30 minutes, the majority of which came after the injury midway through the second quarter.

The timing is never good to lose a starting point guard, but this felt like one injury the Bulls couldn’t have after already missing Lauri Markkanen (elbow) and Denzel Valentine (ankle). Though the Bulls got by at the point in those first two games of the season, the defense has struggled mightily without Dunn, their top defender and communicator, and they now face a string of top-tiered point guards in the next two weeks. It begins Wednesday night with Kemba Walker, the league’s second leading scorer.

“When they say next man up, it’s actually true,” Dunn said. “Even though two men are out, stay positive and keep building on what we’ve been working on. I know we’re 0-3 but there have been some positives in those games. Keep building on it and try to get a win. Once we get a win, we can probably build on that.”

First up to replace Dunn will be the man who started the first two games of the season, fan favorite Cam Payne. Though he’s become the fall guy for the Bulls during their current (and perhaps now-prolonged) rebuild, Payne will enter Wednesday’s with some confidence. He scored 17 points in Saturday’s home loss to the Pistons and played well on the second unit on Monday.

Payne is at his best when he’s playing aggressive and downhill, but he knows that on the first unit with scorers like Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis, picking and choosing those spots will be paramount to his and the team’s success.

“You really don’t know when to be aggressive and when not,” Payne said. “It kind of just comes with the flow of the game. If Zach has it going, obviously, you have to keep going until the fire gets out. There are opportunities at times for point guards to be aggressive.”

Payne could also benefit from the Bulls riding LaVine, who has had the ball in his hands quite often in the early going. Though he hasn’t made a 3-pointer in 68 minutes this season, Payne shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc last year. If he’s forced to play off the ball, it could work in his favor: Payne was 18 for 43 on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, a 44 percent mark that led the Bulls. Though his defense will be the key, especially against a talent like Walker, even a handful of points to take the load off LaVine and Portis could be critical moving forward.

Ryan Arcidiacono will resume second-team duties, while Shaq Harrison and Tyler Ulis could see minutes as Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls begin mixing and matching to see what works. It’ll help that they’ll have Dunn in their ears as another coach on the sideline while he works his way back.

“I’m going to try to keep the same approach,” Dunn said. “That’s what I told Coach (Hoiberg) yesterday. I’m going to be here, try to be a leader and try to help the guys as much as I can. Don’t try to be too down on myself. Spread that positivity.”

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

The NBA is expected to have a plan to resume its season approved by owners at a vote on Thursday, June 4, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The news comes on the heels of a call with the Board of Governors Friday that yielded nothing definitive. Four potential formats for relaunching the season and a target date of July 31 to resume play were reportedly floated.

But the above report from Wojnarowski marks the most marked progress towards the league formally agreeing on a return-to-play plan to date.

Predictably, the precise details of the plan are not yet known. In conjunction with Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne, Wojnarowski reported that the plan is expected to feature invitations for “20-to-22” teams.

That would mean no invite for the Bulls — perhaps a blessing in disguise (or dressed plainly). The Bulls are currently paused with the 24th-best record in the NBA at 22-43, and are 8.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference.

Still, the team opened the Advocate Center Friday morning with clearance from both Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago officials. Players in the area will be permitted to undergo NBA-sanctioned treatments at the facility, an opportunity which Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn have already taken advantage of. Voluntary, socially-distanced, individual workouts may begin Wednesday when Chicago is expected to enter Phase 3 of its reopening. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley will be en route to the city soon.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. A resumption bid seems on the cusp of coming to fruition.

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How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

Before Michael Jordan rejoined the Bulls, he was a Warrior for 48 hours. Figuratively, of course.

No, Jordan didn’t officially sign (or even consider the notion) with the Warriors during the MLB strike that punctuated his first retirement amid the 1994-95 NBA season. But he did secretly practice with the Dubs multiple times whilst retired — and, with rare purpose, dominated multiple All-Stars in midseason condition. 

That story was unearthed on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast. Some of the people behind the production of the podcast, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, Ryan McGuffey and Tony Gill, joined Jason Goff on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss the behind-the-scenes machinations behind its creation.

McGuffey called the secret Jordan-Warriors practice runs the “golden uncovered nugget” of the podcast. And it came about rather serendipitously, in a chance interview with Tim Hardaway.

“The Tim Hardaway interview kind of fell in our lap. He was in our office one day and it was like, ‘Hey, do you want Tim Hardaway?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’” McGuffey said. “I mean, he was an All-Star. I don’t know if it’ll give us anything, I don’t know if it’ll lead to anything. 

“Sometimes the interviews you don’t plan for are the ones that become a stone that you turn over and you’re like ‘What is this?’ And Tim Hardaway made a comment, I asked about the Berto Center practices and whether or not he understood what was going on here in Chicago. And he said, ‘I’m gonna get in trouble for saying this.’ ... When a guy says that, you know you got something."

They did, indeed. From there, on recommendation from Hardaway, the crew got in touch with Rod Higgins, then an assistant coach with the Warriors, now the Atlanta Hawks' VP of basketball operations. As detailed in the podcast, it was through a connection with Higgins that Jordan was even allowed to participate in the practices in the first place.

McGuffey and company entered their sit-down with Higgins ready to pry, equipped with volumes of follow-up questions and previously-researched points. But Higgins was ready to share.

“We reached out, found Higgins with the Hawks and reached out to them and told them exactly why we wanted to do the interview. We said this is the story, here’s what’s been said and can you validate?" McGuffey said. "And he didn’t validate it, he didn’t double down, he tripled down and gave us more facts, more details.”

You can hear those details by listening to the Sports Uncovered podcast here, via the embedded player below or wherever you get your podcasts.

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