Hoffman Estates looks a lot farther away than it did a few months ago.
Especially for Bulls rookie Aye Dosunmu, who Monday had a career-high 14 points making all six of his field goal attempts in playing a vital reserve role in the Bulls 128-114 comeback victory over the Boston Celtics.
"My motto is stay ready so you don't have to get ready," Dosunmu said after Monday's turnaround from a 19-point deficit and 39-11 Bulls fourth quarter. "So whenever my number is called, I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help the team win. At halftime, coach (Billy) Donovan told us we needed to play harder and not give up easy shots and we weren't fighting through screens. When you are coming off the bench and you are seeing the game, you know how the game flows and what the game needs. We knew we needed energy. I just wanted to come out and provide it and play as hard as I can."
The rookie and University of Illinois star has done that in mostly limited playing time as Donovan has been mad scientist with the reserves. With Patrick Williams out for four to six months after a wrist injury against the Knicks, Javonte Green returned to the starting lineup at power forward. Troy Brown Jr. and Alize Johnson started the season in the playing rotation after strong preseason camps, so it looked like Dosunmu would have to play for the Windy City Bulls in Hoffman Estates to sharpen his NBA skills.
Dosunmu didn't play in Toronto in Game 4 after two minutes in Game 2 and then nine minutes against the Knicks. The 6-4 Chicago native from Morgan Park High School was the primary scorer for the Illini and Bob Cousy award winner as the nation's top point guard. So he had to adjust to, well, whatever he was supposed to adjust to.
Though when Dosunmu against the Knicks passed up an open shot, the coaches told him not here. Dosunmu apparently is an avid learner and quick study.
"One thing I love about the NBA is how quick coaches are there to help make you make corrections," said Dosunmu. "The Knicks game it was a shot in the corner and D-Rose closed out and I didn't shoot it and... Alex (Caruso) ended up missing a shot. The coaches told me the shot was open, just step into it and knock it down. During the whole week, I've been working on catch and and shoot. I know DeMar and Zach and Vooch are so good the attention is on them. Me when I was at Illinois, I was used to the attention being on me. So I know when they are making their move, the defender is slacking off (me). I know how to get in the right spot. So I just stepped in confidently and tried it."
That was the fourth quarter back breaker, time out taker when the Bulls took their first lead since midway through the second quarter. Dosunmu also had been uncertain with his finishes at the basket. But his layup past Al Horford to open the fourth quarter 12-0 run was another early season primer and equally crucial.
"There's more length at the NBA level," Dosunmu noticed. "So I was trying to understand what different angle I had to take to get the ball at a higher level. I did that today against Al Horford, putting the ball on the glass at a level I know won't be blocked and where I know I could make it. Just basically me getting used to the game, studying my misses and trying to turn them into makes."
It's that combination of being humble yet unafraid that Donovan said he's come to quickly admire in the mature 21-year-old.
"That just comes from how I was raised," said Dosunmu. "I always put the work in and just believe. My motto is just fear God. So I don't fear anything but God. My parents always guided me the right way. My grandparents lean on me, giving me good guidance. When I compete, I trust in what I can do. I just wanted to go out there and play hard. I never listened to what they (critics) said. I knew what I was capable of doing. I like taking it day by day, brick by brick. Never get too high, never get too low. I understand what my capabilities are and what I can bring to this team. So I'm pretty confident in myself. At the same time, I've got to go out there and ask a lot of questions, get a lot of advice, watch a lot of film. I always put the work in. I understand my capabilities and what I can bring to this team.
"Going through training camp and practices, guarding the guys on our team, gaining knowledge. My thing is I want to get better each day," said Dosunmu. "If it's one percent, or point one percent. That's what I pride myself on. The talent level on our team is incredible. To me asking them questions on how to get better is going to help me."
Further persuading DeMar DeRozan, as if it were necessary, Chicago was the right choice.
"I remember watching him in college and the toughness that he brought," said DeRozan. "Joining a team and getting to know him, his personality, the humbleness that he carries himself with along with the toughness... he's definitely the epitome of a Chicago kid."