By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after news came down that the Bulls would be without one key piece of the return in the Jimmy Butler trade for several weeks, they received word that another one is nearing his return.
Point guard Kris Dunn will see a hand specialist Monday after suffering an open dislocation of his left index finger in the fourth quarter of a 114-101 win against the Bucks at the United Center on Friday night. Dunn will be out at least “a couple weeks,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. It could be longer, depending on the assessment of the hand specialist come Monday.
“Everybody at this time is thankful for the initial diagnosis,” Hoiberg said Saturday. “Right now, it’s not a fracture. It seems like everything is intact. We’ll know more after he sees the specialist on Monday, but the important thing is he’s in good spirits. He played a great game, he played with some swagger, he’s got some confidence. The important thing is keeping him confident as he recovers, and hopefully we’ll get him back out here before too long.”
Dunn was playing his best game of the preseason Friday before he was hurt with just under nine minutes left when he challenged a Sterling Brown dunk and had his finger bend awkwardly. He had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Dunn was in an open competition with Jerian Grant for the starting point guard spot. Now, Grant is in line for the starting nod on opening night at Toronto on Oct. 19.
“It’s definitely tough,” Grant said of seeing Dunn get injured. “We’ve been competing pretty well, pushing each other. But I’m excited for the opportunity to be able to go out there and play a lot of minutes with these guys.”
Grant emphasized he’s ready to play big minutes with Dunn out and fellow point guard Cameron Payne sidelined until at least late November following foot surgery. Asked who the team’s backup point guard is, Hoiberg first praised Ryan Arcidiacono — who’s on a two-way contract that means he’ll spend most of his time in the G-League come the regular season — then added wing Denzel Valentine can also fill the role.
As for Grant, he has no worry about complacency after seemingly winning a job by default, saying his resume doesn’t allow for it.
“For myself, I feel like I haven’t done anything in this league yet,” Grant said. “I’m pushing myself at the same time while he was pushing me, but I haven’t done anything. So to go out there and prove it to myself and prove it to everybody else in this league that I can be a starting point guard.
“I feel like I’ve played all right. I’ve gotten guys involved. Whenever I’ve been out there on the court, the offense has moved well. I’m looking forward to it.”
Hoiberg did indicate he was optimistic about rookie power forward Lauri Markkanen making his preseason debut when the Bulls host the Pelicans on Sunday evening. Markkanen has missed the first three preseason games because of back spasms but said Saturday before practice that he felt “better.”
If he doesn’t have a setback Saturday, he’ll play Sunday. The Bulls selected Markkanen at No. 7 overall in the draft in June as part of the trade with the Timberwolves that also netted them Dunn and Zach LaVine.
“I’m confident,” Markkanen said. “I’ve got a couple workouts in. If I get out there, it’s the first game, so I’m trying to do everything I can. I’m not too worried about it. I’m just looking forward to playing. It sucks to sit out.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.