By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — In one breath, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg lauded praise upon point guard Kris Dunn’s play Friday night. In the next, Hoiberg’s irritation was palpable.
Such is the case in assessing the explosive-but-turnover-laden Dunn’s game right now.
“I played decent,” Dunn said after the Bulls fell 105-87 to the Pacers at the United Center. “I’ve definitely had better games in my life.”
In one of the notable early season Bulls subplots, Dunn is gaining ground in the point guard competition. On Friday, he had a season-high 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting and filled up the box score elsewhere with four rebounds, five assists and three steals. Dunn’s performance came in a season-high 33 minutes as starting point guard Jerian Grant sat the final 20 minutes, 29 seconds of the game, with Hoiberg citing Grant’s role in the Bulls’ poor transition defense as a primary reason for his benching.
The problem for Dunn has been his carelessness with the ball. He entered play Friday averaging 7.3 turnovers per 48 minutes, the third-worst mark in the league for those with at least 100 minutes. He had four more Friday night.
“He makes two plays that make you really excited, getting into the paint, high-fly dunks,” Hoiberg said. “Then he has a couple really careless turnovers. That’s what we got to fix. We got to keep taking steps in the right direction with Kris. He’s certainly shown flashes of being an excellent basketball player, but we got to eliminate those careless turnovers. There’s too many of them. Again, that leads to fast-break basketball on the other end when you turn the ball over like that.”
Dunn’s turnovers are perplexing in that they come in a variety of ways. He squandered an easy transition layup in the first half with a self-inflicted fumble. On another occasion, he got into the paint, left his feet and tried to squeeze a pass into the tiniest of windows.
That foray didn’t work out, and it was reflective of Dunn trying to balance an aggressive nature that’s always been a staple of his game with Hoiberg preaching the “simple play.”
“I try to make those habits in practice, trying to in practice slow my game down, look at the read a little more before I attack,” Dunn said. “I think all the great players do that. So it’s going to take a little while. Because my whole life, I’ve been aggressive. People, they’ve accepted my turnovers, from high school to college. But you can’t do that in the NBA. That’s something I have to adjust.”
Late Friday, Hoiberg didn’t commit to who would start at point guard when Chicago plays at San Antonio on Saturday night. But given Dunn’s superior defensive presence over Grant and his penchant for attacking the basket, it’s a move that’s under consideration.
“We’re trying to let him go,” Hoiberg said of Dunn. “We’re running plays for him. We’re trying to get him downhill. We’re trying to get him into the paint. It’s about going out there and making the simple play. He doesn’t have to go out there and dribble behind his back four times and try to make the spectacular play. Again, he’s shown flashes of being a really, really good player. But again, that’s when he plays simple basketball, when he takes a straight-line drive to the basket, when he doesn’t have to veer off path. That’s when he’s getting himself in trouble.
“We still love him and think he’s got a very bright future.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.