There’s an old adage that pretty much anything occurring in Las Vegas must come with the “it’s only Summer League” qualifier.
But effort translates. And Ayo Dosunmu provided plenty of it Tuesday night.
The 2021 second-round pick flipped the early script, helping the Chicago Bulls rally from a 22-point deficit for a 92-89 victory over the Spurs with defensive energy and four steals.
And that’s not where Dosunmu’s work began.
“I saw the Bulls added a lot of guards. But I also did a lot of research. Coach (Billy) Donovan, he loves to play a lot of three-guard offenses,” the Chicago native and Illinois All-American said via Zoom from Las Vegas. “I know if I just play hard and bring a lot of energy, then I know (playing time) will take care of itself.”
Apparently, Dosunmu’s presence of mind isn’t limited to trying to blow up ball screens and sneak into passing lanes. His reaction to the Bulls adding Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan in free agency after selecting him mere days earlier on draft night?
Get to work on the court. And study Donovan’s rotational decisions off it.
“On the defensive end, that’s all effort. You can control that each day,” Dosunmu said. “So that’s what I want to try to do.”
“It’s only summer league” qualifier or not, Dosunmu admitted to experiencing some anxiousness for his NBA debut on Monday. But the game slowed down for him on Tuesday — or sped up thanks to the jolt of energy he provided defensively. Time and again, Dosunmu fought through screens.
“I feel that’s a skill you have to have,” he said. “You have to have the body, be able to absorb the contact and get through the screens and just play hard. I know that’s something early on in my rookie year I’m going to try to do whatever it takes to get on the court. So if I’m defending the other team’s primary guard and just playing hard, that’s something I’m willing to do.”
Realistically, Dosunmu is a longshot to crack the rotation. He sits as the fifth or sixth guard depending on Devon Dotson’s status behind Ball, Caruso, Zach LaVine and Coby White, who is out until at least October and possibly until December following shoulder surgery.
But the rookie isn’t conceding anything. And this competitiveness is one of the many attributes management cited on draft night.
“He just plays so hard,” Patrick Wiilliams said. “He just flies all over the court. Offensively, he gets to the cup at will. He’s really good at thinking the game. He's one of the more vocal players that we have on the team, even as a rookie. Just nothing but praise from him.”
And on Tuesday night, for him as well.