Ayo Dosunmu has breakout game as Bulls fall to Grizzlies

P-Wil has left the building. So there'll be no encore. Which gave Bulls rookie second-round draft choice Ayo Dosunmu an opportunity to perform in the spotlights on Sunday.

And it was Dosunmu's breakout Summer League show with 26 points and seven rebounds in the Bulls 96-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bulls close Summer League 9 p.m. (CT) Monday against the Charlotte Hornets.

"It felt good being able to make plays," said Dosunmu. "I'm a playmaker. That's what I try to instill in myself on being a two-way player. In the NBA season, especially my rookie year, there are going to be ups and downs. I just want to get better each and every game and try to learn from each game. I think as the games are progressing I'm definitely achieving that."

It was easily Dosunmu's best Summer League game with the focus on him with the departure of Patrick Williams after Game 3 and the sprained ankle that kept starting point guard Devon Dotson on the bench.

So like at the U. of Illinois where Dosunmu was the Cousy award winner as the nation's top point guard, Dosunmu got the ball back in his hands for most of the game and almost carried the Summer Bulls to victory from a 16-point second quarter deficit.

HIGHLIGHTS: Ayo Dosunmu scores 26 in Summer League action

Dosunmu excelled in a two-man game with rookie center Marko Simonovic, who had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. Fellow point guard Jaylen Adams contributed 15 points, though on four of 15 shooting. Simi Shittu had nine points and 10 rebounds.

The Summer Bulls perimeter game was poor with five of 28 on threes. Dosunmu was one of five and overall now one of eight on threes in the four games in which the Summer Bulls are 1-3. That will hinder his chances for a rotation spot on the regular roster. Though Dosunmu understands this is about it being the beginning.

"That's what Summer League is for, rookies to come in and showcase their skills," said the 6-5 guard. "Me having the opportunity here to test my skills against NBA competition, NBA sets, NBA offense, NBA defense. After tomorrow's game, I can soak in the whole five games. Then I can go back and work and try to get better.

"This is one of my first games being able to operate in pick-and-rolls," Dosunmu noted. "I just wanted to showcase what I can do and how I'm going to continue to work hard to get better at that."

Dosunmu directing the offense was best slipping the ball to Simonovic on pick and roll plays and shooting floaters in the lane. Dosunmu was alert looking ahead after rebounds, several times finding Simonovic running out on offense. The 6-11 Simonovic said last week after Game 1 he would be a fast big man running the court ahead of others, which he did. Though all the Summer Bulls were lax in getting back on defense in allowing numerous fast break Memphis points.

"I play with confidence and I think I have this in my hands," said Simonovic, a second-round draft pick in 2020. "I think for me the most important thing is I have a lot of space to improve myself defensively, for sure. I think I need to work on pick-and-roll defense. But I think I did some progress and this is great experience for me this Summer League. I feel comfortable. But I need also to improve my body to put some muscles on my body. That's my goal also, to be stronger."

Marko Simonovic finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and six assists against Memphis.

The Bulls primary strength for this Summer League series was Patrick Williams, the powerful prodigy who averaged 21 points and almost ten rebounds in the first three games with the offense directed toward him. With little more to accomplish in Las Vegas, management dismissed Williams to get rest before restarting workouts. Williams had been playing considerable point forward to prepare for the regular season. Also, with Dotson nursing the sprained ankle from Game 3, Dosunmu finally got to play as he mostly did in college.

Dosunmu, playing mostly shooting guard the first three games, was averaging six points and five rebounds on 29 percent shooting, primarily concentrating on defense. With the personnel changes, Dosunmu finally got an opportunity to make plays.

"His usage was a little bit higher, especially handling the basketball," said Bulls player development coordinator Henry Domercant, the Chicago native and Naperville North graduate who took over from Damian Cotter as Summer League coach to gain some coaching experience. "I think he settled into the game and got comfortable. Every game he's going to get better and better, I believe, as he gets more comfortable with our sets, the way we do things and this NBA game overall. I think all of that played a part in him having a little more success tonight offensively.

"He's definitely a guard and he's going to be a contributor in that area," Domercant added. "Maybe a secondary handler, maybe a primary handler."

But it's going to be a crowded room for Dosunmu to break through with the Bulls offseason additions of guards Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan to go along with incumbents Zach LaVine, Coby White and Troy Brown. So Dosunmu could split some time with Windy City and thus get a chance to direct a team as he did Sunday with the Summer Bulls.

It was a staggering start for the Summer Bulls, who had been relying so much on Williams. They trailed 24-19 after one quarter and 41-25 midway through the second quarter, missing their first seven three-point attempts, and 53-41 at halftime.

Domercant, who played overseas for a decade, must have the halftime talk down pat. Because the Summer Bulls came out running and dunking, as Dosunmu did, hitting the offensive boards as Simonovic did with a putback and with a 19-4 start to the quarter that gave the Summer Bulls a 72-69 lead after three quarters.

Like Elvis at the International, the Summer Bulls had the Grizzlies all shook up.

Dosunmu and Simonovic continued to connect on the pick and roll in the fourth quarter and Dosunmu grabbed a rebound and threw a one hand full court football pass that could have had him making the Bears roster. But the Summer Bulls defense cracked again for a fast break and the Grizzlies made some threes to hold off some late floaters by Dosunmu.

"This is my fourth summer league game," Dosunmu noted. "After my first game, I stated that I want to get better each game. That's no matter how well I play or how poorly I play. I try to get better each game. Never get too high. Never get too low. Each game, each quarter, I'm trying to continue to progress."

The arrow is pointing up again.