Summer League has been a linguistic stew for Bulls rookie and former Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu, starting with an oy vey in the opening game loss to a bit of ole' in Tuesday's comeback victory over the Spurs when Dosunmu's defense and four steals help spur the Bulls from a 22-point deficit.
"I was a bit anxious the first game being my first professional game," Dosunmu admitted. "The second game, it really cooled down for me. It's just basketball. That's the thing when I say try to get better each game. I'm excited to get better (Thursday 3 p.m. CT against Minnesota). The more games I get under my belt, the more experience, the better I'll be. That's the type of learner I am. Whenever I go through something, any type of adversity, I tend to get better as time goes. So it was encouraging to see me just get a better feel for the pro game. I'm just going to build and get better each game."
Dosunmu started both games which mostly have been a starring audition for Patrick Williams, who is among the Summer League leaders in several statistical categories averaging 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, shooting 16 for 43 overall, but 42 percent on threes. Williams is essentially being trained for his starting power forward role with the new look Bulls.
Everyone else is trying to find a place in the NBA, including Dosunmu, the celebrated collegian and Chicago native who fell to the second round of the NBA draft and the Bulls. Second-round rookies usually find their way to the G-league, which could be the route for the popular 21-year-old. In addition, the Bulls have loaded up on guards in the offseason with the signings of Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan (perhaps to play small forward) and Alex Caruso to join Zach LaVine, Troy Brown, Javonte Green and Coby White.
Though the consensus first team All-American and Cousy award winner isn't deterred or discouraged.
Ayo Dosunmu rises up for a transition dunk against the Spurs in Summer League
"Definitely, I saw the Bulls added a lot of guards," Dosunmu acknowledged. "But I also did a lot of research. Coach Billy Donovan, he loves to play a lot of three-guard offenses. I know if I just play hard, compete and bring a lot of energy, then I know it will take care of itself. I would say versatility (is my greatest asset), being able to guard, being able to rebound, push the break and just play hard, bring energy.
"I'm going to try to do whatever it takes to get on the court," Dosunmu said. "So if I'm defending the other team's primary guard and just playing hard, that's something I'm willing to do. I want to consider myself a two-way player. On the defensive end, that's all effort. You can control that each day. So that's what I want to try to do."
The 6-5 guard, frankly, doesn't make you think NBA.
He's not a great shooter with a relatively slow release. He did shoot 39 percent last season, though 29 percent the year before. He won the award as the nation's top collegiate point guard. But he had a poor assist-to-turnover ratio with sometimes low percentage passes. He's not a high flier likely to finish lob dunks. But he makes plays and has leadership tendencies. Playing at Morgan Park High School and then three years at the U. of Illinois in helping revive that program, he was almost always a big reason for the success. Even fans would say he never did much great, but did a lot awfully good.
Particularly on the defensive side, like with his four steals for the Summer Bulls Tuesday in the comeback victory over the Spurs. Drawing comparisons to a player like Jrue Holiday, who had modest college statistics and an unspectacular start in the NBA as a defensive specialist, Dosunmu does a lot of those things that aren't generally charted. Like getting over screens, pushing the pick and roll out of position, forcing offenses to adjust because of his length and reach in the passing lanes.
Dosunmu in the two games is averaging eight points, five rebounds and two assists, shooting just six of 17 overall and one missed three. But coaches notice what he brings.
Lauri finishes and one
"What I like about him, he's very coachable," said Summer League coach Damian Cotter. "I like that you can speak with him directly. He's a Chicago kid. I really like coaching the Chicago kids. You can talk straight. I challenged him just to be better defensively and I think he responded really well. He had impact on that side of the ball and he was great in transition. I think he has to keep evolving his offensive game. But he can provide energy defensively. We want to develop his playmaking skills. He could become a pinch-hit ball-carrier if we need it. He's a hard worker. He's got a great team mindset from a standpoint of attitude. I feel very confident that he's just gonna work his way forward into being a contributor."
Somewhere between Shaq Harrison and Jimmy Butler, the latter, remember, a 30th draft pick considered mostly a defensive specialist. Remember, Butler averaged 2.6 points his rookie NBA season at 22.
How much Dosunmu can contribute and whether can it be with this Bulls varsity remains problematic. But also uncertain because the roster is hardly complete. Plus, Coby White likely will not be ready for the start of the season. Though is it better to be at the end of the bench or developing your skills for NBA play in the G-League? And this suddenly is a very mature Bulls roster no longer much about development.
Though Dosunmu is starting to make the team take notice. He got an early hook Tuesday after the erratic opener. But then when the Bulls rallied after halftime, he was in the middle of the activity, running out on a Devon Dotson pass for a dunk, following that with a pair of steals, running the court with another slam dunk and finishing well on the break in the fourth quarter in the 22-9 Bulls fast break edge.
"I feel I contribute with my speed, my athleticism, my ability to guard both ends of the court," said Dosunmu. "And then when the ball comes to me, just try to be efficient. That's really what I'm trying to focus on. Just be efficient on the offensive end. On the defensive end, just be able to guard, blow up ball screens and just play hard.
"Just try to learn something new each game," he said. "That's the best way you're going to get better. That's why you see some of the second-year guys performing so well because they have games under their belt and experience. Just trying to stay encouraged and keep building brick by brick. I learn personally just to always bring that energy. I knew it already, but that's something I wanted to take from that first game. And just play with pace. I feel if you play with pace, that's a huge thing for the pro game.
"The pace is different (in the pro game)," Dosunmu noted. "It's much faster. More ball screens. I know I'm fast so I try to use my speed to get to the rim, just see the ball go in."
Make that perhaps some boo-ya.