Run the offense, spark the defense: Dosunmu enjoying the challenge

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson during a game on Jan. 28, 2022, in San Antonio. Dosunmu has handled his additional duties on the court well after Lonzo Ball (knee) and Alex Caruso (wrist) went down with injuries.

    Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson during a game on Jan. 28, 2022, in San Antonio. Dosunmu has handled his additional duties on the court well after Lonzo Ball (knee) and Alex Caruso (wrist) went down with injuries. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/31/2022 9:05 PM

All that talk about Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu being the steal of the draft is flattering and all.

But now that he's starting at point guard, things are a little more serious. In some ways, Dosunmu is replacing both Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. He's running the offense, like Ball did, and he's arguably the team's best perimeter defender, taking over from Caruso.

 

"I think it's a lot, honestly," coach Billy Donovan said Monday at the Advocate Center. "He's got to shift us in and out of offenses. What are we doing after made baskets, missed shots? Obviously, I can try to help him from the bench. But he's doing a really good job managing the stuff we've asked him to manage."

It hasn't been smooth sailing. The Bulls are 4-7 over their last 11 games and have the league's worst defensive rating during that span.

But that's also when they lost Ball, Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr. and Zach LaVine to injuries in a span of 10 days. LaVine has since returned and the Bulls have held onto second place in the East.

Dosunmu figures to stay in this job for a while. Ball (knee) and Caruso (broken wrist) aren't expected back until mid-March at the earliest.

Dosunmu, the South Side native who starred at Illinois, might have been a second-round steal for the Bulls. But he's gone from a part-time role player to full-time floor general within a few weeks.

"Now it just comes with a bit more responsibility," he said after Monday's practice. "Making sure guys are in the right spot, making sure defensively guys are in the right spot, just being that leader, being a voice of coach Donovan out on the court."

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While he appreciates his relationship with Donovan, Dosunmu said Caruso has served as his defensive coach, sharing veteran wisdom with the rookie.

"Alex, he told me a lot, just about trying to guard some guys," Dosunmu said. "Me guarding veterans, all-stars, some of the best at the position, they have so many tricks offensively. So him giving me tricks defensively just to try to make it an even playing field, I try to take it and use it in a game.

"I think the advice they've been giving me, I think that's really a big part of how I'm successful defensively, just picking that up and trying to use it fast and remember it."

Donovan said one thing that's impressed him about Dosunmu is his stamina. In nine games since Ball was sidelined, he's averaged 37.6 minutes, which ranks seventh in the league.

"They always say your mind tells you you're tired and you have about 60-70% left," he said. "So I just try to train my mind that so when I think I'm tired, it's probably just a spur of the moment thing and if you just keep going, dig deep, it gives me a little bit more leniency."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So far, the Bulls defense hasn't shown many signs of improvement. Caruso and Ball made everyone's job easier and they haven't been able to adjust.

"I think everyone needs to give a little bit more effort," Dosunmu said. "I think it's a team thing. I think we all need to just be there for each other more. I would say get each others' backs, have that trust.

"We've showed flashes of it at times where we can be one of the best defenses in the league. I think that's all it takes is just more camaraderie, more chemistry together, more trust."

They can start with Tuesday's rematch against Orlando. A week ago in Florida, the last-place Magic shot 53% from the field, scored 114 points and handed the Bulls a frustrating loss.

The second-round pick can become a vital piece to the Bulls' struggle to stay near the top of the East.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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