Clear-minded and competitive, Kris Dunn relishes point guard battle

Clear-minded and competitive, Kris Dunn relishes point guard battle

There has been plenty of speculation about how Kris Dunn reacted to the Bulls drafting a point guard in Coby White, acquired a multi-positional player whose best games have come at point guard in Tomas Satoransky and re-signed a point guard in Ryan Arcidiacono who just happens to be a Jim Boylen favorite.

That speculation only intensified during NBA Summer League, when league sources indicated at the time that the Bulls were shopping Dunn and that his camp was open to a new home.

Nevertheless, Dunn is here, on the eve of training camp, a competitive September of informal workouts with teammates in his rearview mirror and praise flowing from all directions about his play.

Dunn quieted the speculation during a nearly 10-minute interview at Media Day, flashing humility, introspection and, what’s best for the Bulls, a still competitive and clear mind.

“Mentally, I’m the best I’ve been,” Dunn said Monday at the Advocate Center. “I got to go back home, be around my son, my family and friends and everything. The Bulls brought in some great pieces. We all gel well. This September, I really focused on how I can improve---being aggressive, finding my spots and how I can make others better.”

The cynical approach would be to view Dunn’s comments as coming from a player entering a contract year or executive vice president John Paxson’s effusive praise as an executive angling to restore trade value. But the eve of training camp is no time for cynicism.

And Dunn sounded convincing as a player who is ready to contribute to winning in whatever form that takes.

“You know me, I tell people this all the time: I’m big on film. I think to be the best I can, I have to go see what I did wrong,” Dunn said. “Assess each year and that’s what I do year after year. I have some people in my corner who are not just yes men---my family, my friends, some of my old teammates. They played a big part: ‘Kris, you gotta do this better.’ And I agreed with them. You have to own up as a man to the things you have to do better. I did that and got into the gym and came back with a clear-headed mind.”

Dunn spoke these words standing on the court, away from the podium. Eight players in all spoke there, including faces of the franchise Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, newcomers Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, rookies White and Daniel Gafford and the two Jrs, Otto Porter and Wendell Carter.

That Dunn didn’t speak at the podium is yet another sign of him being verbally dropped from the core that he used to be included in following Jimmy Butler’s trade to Minnesota for him, LaVine and Markkanen. Paxson, who has never questioned Dunn’s competitiveness or potential, started adding Carter instead to that list in public comments last season.

Dunn joked that he was merely following the written instructions on the sheet of paper a staffer handed to him, sending him to various stations for photo shoots or to film scoreboard promotional material. But Dunn is also savvy enough to know how far he had fallen---and how his September approach could be changing some of the organizational tune.

“They told me in the (April) exit meetings those (offseason moves) were going to happen,” Dunn said. “It’s part of the business. You can’t be a professional if you can’t take on those kinds of things.

“We know Zach and Lauri are phenomenal players for us. I understand, and as a team we understand, we need them to be great players for us. At the same time, it’s not just two players who are going to help the team win. All of us have to contribute and do our jobs.”

At the end of last season, Dunn said he struggled to find his role playing off the ball. The career 32.3% 3-point shooter has authored his best moments as a Bull with the ball in his hands, a role not always available in Boylen’s multi ballhandler system.

Satoransky projects to perhaps fit better with LaVine given that Satoransky has been a low-usage guard known for ball distribution and solid decision-making. But Dunn insists there’s still a role for himself.

“I think I definitely got better with those issues,” Dunn said of playing off the ball. “I learned. Just do a little bit of everything. I know I can be a great defensive piece for this team. Score the ball at times, get people involved, rebound. I bring a lot to the team. Coach going to use me where he needs me.”

Dunn has battled injuries with the Bulls, playing in 52 and 46 games. But he has started 87 of those. And that role is where Dunn still views himself.

“Do I view myself as a starter? I think anybody would view themselves as a starter. Who doesn’t want to start?” Dunn said. “But it’s Coach’s choice. And I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m here for it.”

Boylen said competition for the position is healthy. Paxson agreed.

“And I’ll say this too. One of the things we like about this roster — we’ve talked about the versatility — Tomas Satoransky can play 1, 2 or 3. He’s 6-7. He’s just a basketball player. He knows how to play. He’s a good passer, a good shooter, a good decision-maker. He can play off the ball,” Paxson said. “Coby’s young.

“I do want to specifically mention Kris Dunn, though, because he really had a terrific month. I think all of us up here are really proud of him, the commitment he’s made. As players, he’s obviously playing for something. But he’s really committed himself to this group. Sometimes guys get challenged, and we’re all proud of how he’s responded. I really am. That’s been a big thing. And he can help us. Kris Dunn’s a very good defender. And he can do some things on the floor that we’re going to need. Like Jim said, he’s got a little nasty to him. That never hurts.”

Satoransky played his best basketball last season for the Wizards starting for the injured John Wall. But he, too, is taking a team-first approach.

“I don’t expect it to be a rivalry between us. I don’t even know if I’m going to play against him a lot at the point guard position. I think it’s about getting better and getting the best out of us, not only Kris and me but also Coby and Arch,” Satoransky said. “There’s a lot of playmaking, and I really like that. I think everyone should bring the best out of each other in the training camp and I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

The eve of training camp always is about good vibes and positive sound bites. But Dunn knows where he has been and what he has done, even as he’s now looking forward.

“You gotta love it. You really gotta love it,” Dunn said of his journey. “I mean, I done went through it in college. Just gotta be strong. I got a great supporting cast that allows me to stay level-headed. Stay strong and just go into the gym. Keep working on your craft. Try to be the best player and teammate you can be. That’s what I brought into August and September.

“Just focus on leading the team. Coby is young. I understand it’s going to take him time. He’s got room to grow. But he’s a talented player. Satoransky is a great player. He’s going to be a good piece to this team. He has more experience than me. He’s been in playoff games. He’s been a good teammate to me. Learn from those guys too. They might see something I don’t see on the court. It’s healthy.”

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Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Tomas Satoransky is a perfectionist and a pleaser.

This can be a positive thing. It also can be negative.

“Everyone who is close to me will tell you that I’m hardest on myself. I always expect to play the best,” Satoransky said in an interview. “I always expect to be perfect, which isn’t always the best but in the long term it has always worked out for me.”

That’s because perfection is an unattainable quest. But Satoransky keeps working towards the unachievable goal. So he’s driven, which is good, but sometimes self-destructive, which isn’t.

Early on, as Satoransky slowly adjusted to a new city, new coach, new teammates and new system, the process didn’t go smoothly.

“I didn’t feel down. I felt frustrated and anxious to do better, anxious to help the team as much as he can,” coach Jim Boylen said when asked if he sensed frustration from Satoransky. “He really struggles when he lets the team down. That’s just basketball. You’re not going to play perfect all the time. He takes it to heart. I’ve spoken to him about it. I don’t need him to beat himself up. Just continue to grow and learn how we’re going to play and get used to guys. It does take some time to get a feel for each other.”

And it’s happening. Satoransky has posted nine straight games with at least five assists, the second-longest stretch of his young career. Coincidentally, his assist totals began to rise the more he looked for his shot.

“I think there’s a point where you make other people better, which he tries to do, and a point where you have to play your game. I think he’s starting to figure that out,” Boylen said. “I think he’s starting to understand where his spots are and how he makes people better but also doesn’t lose the positive things he can do individually.”

The selflessness of Satoransky is something that gets mentioned often by others when they’re asked about him. He’s someone who takes the time to read a situation before asserting himself, always trying to make the right play.

This dynamic was exacerbated by Satoransky not only joining a new team but doing so after playing a leading role for his Czech Republic national team at the FIBA World Cup this offseason.

“I think I’m very adaptable. But I won’t aggressively adapt. I’ll try to see what it is---new coaches, new offense---before asserting myself,” Satoransky said. “I knew I had to be patient, especially with a new team, new role. I’m also coming from a very different situation in the World Cup. And I’m trying to fit in and make my teammates feel the best and most comfortable around me. But I’m trying to be more aggressive because it opens up more space.

“I feel we’re more and more on the same page now.”

Satoransky’s averages of 9.6 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.1 minutes are eerily similar to those he posted last season with the Wizards, his breakout season. In 80 games, including 54 starts for the injured John Wall, he averaged 8.9 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds also in 27.1 minutes.

He’s shooting 39.7 percent on 3 3-point attempts per game---again very similar to last season’s 39.5 percent on 2 3-point attempts per game.

“I tell him he has to take his shots. He’s a threat,” Zach LaVine said. “He can shoot and create for others. Once he gets in the lane, he’s crafty. He isn’t just a spot-up 3-point shooter.”

Satoransky is in the first year of a three-year, $30 million deal that is only partially guaranteed in the final season. He said he is enjoying Chicago and playing for the Bulls.

“Everyone cares. We get along well,” Satoransky said. “This is my second NBA locker room, but I think this is one of the best groups I’ve had.”

Now, he just wants to improve the won-lost record to something closer to perfection.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 100-98 loss to the Warriors

0:45 - Reaction to loss and Bulls losing to Warriors again

2:30 - On 4th quarter struggles

3:30 - On Zach LaVine’s game-winning shot attempt

5:20 - Viewer comments on Coby White starting

9:20 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine leads to Matt rant

10:20 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter

12:10 - Viewer comment on Sato needing to be more aggressive

13:30 - Viewer comment on Luke Kornet

16:35 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine talking trash to Warriors

18:00 - On LaVine not being the issue

19:00 - On Otto Porter’s injury and being out indefinitely

22:10 - Viewer comment on Bulls being contenders

23:50 - Viewer comment asking why Matt is always angry

24:50 - Viewer asking Sabine how he feels about the Bears beating the Cowboys

26:20 - Which team is more likely to make playoffs, Bears or Bulls?

 Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders


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