From South Side to West Side, Dosunmu makes most of first Bulls start
Ayo Dosunmu's postgame news conference on Monday started with a combination geography lesson and comedy routine.
With the Bulls missing DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso and others, Dosunmu got the first start of his NBA career and played well in the Bulls' 109-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets at the United Center.
During pregame introductions, Dosunmu was announced as being "From Chicago," just like Derrick Rose was introduced so many times.
Asked about the distinction, it didn't click right away with Dosunmu that some reporters who used to cover Rose were asking about choosing to go with Chicago, rather than the traditional college attended, in this case University of Illinois.
"They asked me. I'm from Chicago; Chicago, Illinois, it's the same thing. Chicago is in Illinois, so yeah, but I'm from Chicago," Dosunmu said. "I love Champaign, but I love Chicago."
When the question was rephrased to include the Rose connection, at first Dosunmu -- who was born in 2000 -- helped with more details, mentioning that Rose was also from the South Side, which everyone in the room obviously knew. Finally, both sides got on the same page.
"That's a bonus, of course, because he (Rose) is a legend," Dosunmu said. "Everything he did for the city of Chicago, being from Chicago. There's areas where I look up to his journey. I like to be proud to say I'm from Chicago because I know the ups and downs of the city. I've been here my whole life.
"I've seen so many things, so many tragedies. For me to be in this position, doing what I love at the highest level, anytime I get an opportunity to show love to where I came from, I always love to do that."
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 32 points, while Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball each finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Derrick Jones Jr. added 12 points, and in his first NBA start, Dosunmu had 11 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds while playing 42 minutes.
Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic didn't shoot well, but piled up 17 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets.
"Ayo, I thought his activity defensively, just his energy, his length, his ability to get downhill, another ballhandler-playmaker could help the group," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of the decision to start the rookie.
When Dosunmu got the news about an hour before tipoff, Donovan said the former Illini star was unfazed and ready to accept any role.
"It was actually just pretty cool," Dosunmu said. "We went over the scouting, seeing my name there, it was exciting. It brought back memories from my first game starting in college. It's hard to explain, it was a feeling of joy, excitement. I just wanted to seize my opportunity."
The Bulls (17-8) played without leading scorer DeRozan, who joined Javonte Green and Coby White in health and safety protocols, while NBA steals leader Caruso is resting a sore hamstring. LaVine said he called DeRozan as soon as the game ended.
Denver (11-12) was missing players of their own. The Nuggets have three players in health and safety protocols -- Austin Rivers, rookie Bones Hyland and former Windy City Bull Bol Bol. Michael Porter Jr. is likely out for the year after spinal surgery and Jamal Murray has yet to return from a torn ACL suffered late last season.
LaVine scored 12 points in the final four minutes of the third quarter to help give the Bulls a 77-71 edge. Then the Bulls had a 6-point possession early in the fourth quarter. It started with a Lonzo Ball 3-pointer while Denver's JaMychal Green was called for a foul.
After video review, it was ruled a flagrant foul, so Ball hit a free throw, the Bulls got the ball back and Dosunmu found Tony Bradley for a dunk. A short time later, Dosunmu drained a 3 to put the Bulls up 86-73 with 9:50 left.
Television analyst Stacey King was also sidelined by health and safety protocols and didn't work Monday's game.