Kris Dunn's Summer Work & Attitude Earns Plaudits From Front Office & Players Alike

Despite a summer of media speculation, Kris Dunn has returned to the Bulls in great shape - physically & mentally - and he is focused on being the best teammate he can be and helping this young Bulls team win games.

Perhaps the biggest surprise Monday at the Bulls annual media day to open training camp was that Kris Dunn didn't arrive in a coffin.

No, Kris ain't Done yet.

"Mentally, I'm the best I've been," Dunn told a clatch of reporters away from the formal interviews the Bulls had set up for most of the regulars. "I got to go back home, be around my son, my family and friends and everything. The Bulls brought in some great pieces. We all gel well. This September, I really focused on how I can improve, being aggressive, finding my spots and how I can make others better. Coming in, buying into the system and I think Jim (Boylen, coach) and the other coaches and players helped me during September and also August. I think it should be a fun season.

"I think the main thing is keep my body healthy and do whatever I can to help this team win," Dunn added. "We've got a lot of great pieces, very talented, have a chance to make the playoffs. Do whatever I can to help this team win. They told me in the exit meetings (in April) those things (adding point guards) were going to happen. It's part of the business. You can't be a professional if you can't take on those kinds of things. They allowed me to go home a little bit to be around my family, my son, my friends. Just work my butt off. Be a good teammate. Try to do anything I can to help this team win.

"I know I can be a great defensive piece for this team," Dunn said. "Score the ball at times, get people involved, rebound. Do a little bit of everything. I bring a lot to the team. Coach is going to use me where he needs me. Do I view myself as a starter? I think anybody would view themselves as a starter. Who doesn't want to start? But it's coach's choice. And I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team win. Whatever the team needs me to do, I'm here for it."

It seemed last season with injuries, often left out of management's description of the team's core and the drafting and signing of point guards after the season that Dunn was, well, you know, done as a Bull.

True, the Bulls used their first round pick for point guard Coby White. And the Bulls made one of their two major offseason acquisitions, along with Thaddeus Young, Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky. Plus, the Bulls resigned point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Three's a crowd. Four's a conundrum.

One might even read symbolism into Dunn Monday being left off the formal interview podium, where Boylen, executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, and players Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Young, Satoransky, Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., White and Daniel Gafford met with reporters.

But Dunn just laughed off the omission.

"It's not on the (assignment) paper," Dunn said joking with reporters and seemingly as comfortable as he's been since being part of the Jimmy Butler trade. "I'm going by the paper. "I'm not really worried about the others," Dunn said. "I think to be the best I can, I have to go see what I did wrong. Assess each year. I have some people in my corner who are not just yes men---my family, my friends, some of my old teammates. They played a big part: ‘Kris, you gotta do this better.' And I agreed with them. You have to own up as a man to the things you have to do better. I did that and got into the gym and came back with a clear-headed mind."

A healthy, committed and motivated Kris Dunn would be a blessing for the Bulls.

That seemed apparent with executive vice-president John Paxson perhaps more effusive about Dunn than anyone during his remarks.

Boylen was asked the obvious question about who would start at point guard.

"We love the competition," Boylen predictably offered. "I think our guys have embraced the competition. That's all we've been talking about is competing. We've got a young guy in Coby White who's tough, physical, with positional size. Satoransky's got great experience. He's tough, physical. KD is a guy that I care for and has helped us win games. He's still a young, developing player. I'm encouraged. We've got depth there. All those guys can play off the ball, too. In a multi-handler system you're going to play off the ball some. So that's what we've been trying to help them with."

It was then before being asked that Paxson interrupted.

"I do want to specifically mention Kris Dunn, though, because he really had a terrific month," said Paxson. "I think all of us up here are really proud of him, the commitment he's made. As players, he's obviously playing for something (potential contract extension). But he's really committed himself to this group. Sometimes guys get challenged, and we're all proud of how he's responded. I really am. That's been a big thing. And he can help us. Kris Dunn's a very good defender. And he can do some things on the floor that we're going to need. Like Jim said, he's got a little nasty to him. That never hurts."

It seemed last season the nasty part was going to be the departure of Dunn following two seasons with the Bulls. Most of his statistical averages declined amidst uncertainly about his role and health. Adding two point guards seemed to represent banging the nails into his Chicago coffin.

But there seemed to be a crack of light at Summer League when Dunn arrived, eager to mix with teammates and chat with management. Then Dunn joined teammates in September for vigorous workouts that included a competitive round robin series of one on one tournaments. Teammates noticed.

"He has looked great," said Zach LaVine. "We were in here doing a little mini-camp. Kris looked as good as anybody out here. He's in great shape. Whatever role he has, he's OK with it and he'll accept it. But he looks really good, and his mind and heart is in the right place. I think he's poised to have a really big season."

Will he start? Will he be upset if he doesn't? Can he play off the ball? Should he? They're relevant questions, but it's better to have a former No. 5 overall draft pick tough 6-4 point guard than not to have one. Let ‘em play and see what happens.

"You gotta love it," Dunn said when asked about his fickle journey with the Bulls that had him trying to beat out Jerian Grant two years ago to becoming the team's go-to scorer to close games to being on the verge of falling out of the rotation. "You really gotta love it. I went through it in college. If you look at my college journey, it was almost kind of the same. Just gotta be strong. I got a great supporting cast that allows me to stay level headed. Stay strong and just go into the gym. Keep working on your craft. Try to be the best player and teammate you can be. That's what I brought into August and September. "We know Zach and Lauri are phenomenal players for us. I understand, and as a team we understand we need them to be great players for us. At the same time," said Dunn. "It's not just two players who are going to help the team win. All of us have to contribute and do our jobs. Just try to keep my head down. Come in and do what I do best, work my butt off, try to be a good teammate and try to help this team win.

"I always wanted to be in a Bulls uniform," Dunn insisted. "I appreciate the Bulls for giving me the opportunity to be in this uniform. It's a business. As long as I'm here, I'm going to work my butt off and try to be the best teammate I can be. Try to help this team win games. Keep a good mindset to try to improve my game. See where I can be better and see the good things I have been working on in the summer and how they translate into camp. And be a good teammate. Coby is young. I understand it's going to take him time. He's got room to grow. But he's a talented player. Satoransky is a great player. He's going to be a good piece to this team. He has more experience than me. He's been in playoff games. He's been a good teammate to me. Learn from those guys. too. They might see something I don't see on the court."

Heck, just seeing Kris Dunn on the court may be the surprise for now. It could turn out to be a happier one than recently expected for the Bulls.