‘I’m just trying to be that guy who keeps everyone together’ – The Denver Post


Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan posed preseason as a trial for the starting point guard position, but the last two weeks made one thing clear — there really wasn’t a competition.

Ayo Dosunmu will be the starting point guard for the foreseeable future, beginning his sophomore NBA season the same way he ended the first by filling in for the injured Lonzo Ball.

Dosunmu, 22, shoulders the expectation of leading the Bulls offense into the 2022-23 season, which begins Wednesday against the Heat in Miami. It’s a challenge the hometown guard feels ready to accept.

“We have a great team who’s willing to listen and willing to win,” Dosunmu said. “I’m just trying to be that guy who keeps everyone together, be that guy to push us when we need it and just be that vocal guy. I think that’s just a God-given talent that I have.”

Dosunmu will take plenty of inspiration from Ball, who spent hours after practice last season shooting with the rookie. Ball coached Dosunmu to catalyze a faster pace and hone his decision making to individual teammates, two traits Dosunmu believes will fuel his presence at point guard this season.

But Dosunmu also wants to create a distinct identity for himself. The Bulls still don’t know when — or if — Ball will be able to return to the lineup. In the meantime, Dosunmu can’t be an imitator. He needs to forge his own path as a player and as a leader.

“He has no problem leading,” Donovan said. “If he thinks he’s got something to say to somebody that can help the team or help that individual, he does it and he does it in the right way. … He has never backed away from that responsibility and I think he’ll only get better at that.”

Dosunmu excelled as an emergency fill-in last season, averaging 8.8 points on 52% shooting and 3.3 assists. But expectations will be higher as he sheds the anonymity of his status as a second-round rookie and becomes a full-time starter.

For Donovan, the clear focus for Dosunmu is to become a more independent playmaker. This self-direction is less about learning plays and more about building the comfort and confidence to direct and adapt the offense on the fly.

Dosunmu is a film-room junkie, and even as a rookie he didn’t struggle going off-book from the plays and schematics of the offense. But the vision required to mold an offensive plan to an individual game can be built only in game situations.

Last season, Donovan spent dedicated game time coaching Dosunmu through situations. The guard needs to take initiative to elevate the offense into a less predictable system.

“(Donovan) was always hard on me. He never sugarcoated anything,” Dosunmu said. “Now that I’m older, you can see that he’s giving me a little bit more rope and starting to trust and believe in my capabilities more. He knows I put the work in.”

It’s a big leap for a second-year player, but Dosunmu feels ready to make it.

He punched in at the Advocate Center almost every day this summer, working with his father and the Bulls coaching staff to speed up his jump shot. And after a whirlwind introduction to the league, Dosunmu said he’s prepared to help his hometown team through ups and downs this season — and for as long as the Bulls need him at point guard.

“Good or bad, I want to always learn from it,” Dosunmu said. “That’s how you get better as a person, on the court and off the court. It’s about learning from your mistakes and also learning from the positive things you did well.”



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