Ayo Dosunmu

Bulls insist they can play fast when DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine return

Ayo Dosunmu, who starred in Bucks' victory, will have larger role with LaVine out at least a week

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Zach LaVine’s sore right foot will sideline him for at least a week and at least the next three games. DeMar DeRozan got up some shots Friday and is questionable with his sprained left ankle for Saturday’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

With at least LaVine out for the short-term, more opportunity will be available for several players. And Ayo Dosunmu, who stuffed 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and strong defense into his first start this season on Thursday, will be one of them.

“You approach it like you approach any other day. You put the work in when the lights are off and it shows when gametime comes,” Dosunmu said following Friday’s practice at the Advocate Center. “My mindset has always been you go into each shootaround, each pregame as if I’m playing 40 minutes. Some days, you might. Some days, you might not. But if you always have that standard of preparation, when your number is called, you’ll be prepared.”

Coach Billy Donovan praised Dosunmu.

“He was great because his tempo and pace in pick-and-roll was really good. He wasn’t rushed,” Donovan said. “He read the floor. He read the defense. He made really good decisions, not only for himself but he generated shots for other guys. He got Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) a lot of opportunities.”

Dosunmu was one of multiple players who helped the Bulls play faster and record a season-high 32 assists in Thursday’s victory over the Bucks.

“That’s pretty much what we’ve been working on all season. (Thursday) was everything the coaching staff has been preaching to us in the offseason—getting downhill, getting 3s up, playing with pace, making the extra pass, defending, playing with energy,” Dosunmu said. “That’s an example of the team we can be. Now it’s about maintaining that.”

The question, now, of course is: Can the Bulls maintain that style, particularly when DeRozan and LaVine return? DeRozan, in particular, often plays at a more deliberate pace, slaying teams in the midrange.

“Zach and DeMar are great players. We’re all as one. They’re bought into everything we’re about. Now it’s about doing it collectively as a team. There’s no reason why they’re not capable of doing it. They’ve showcased it,” Dosunmu said. “If you look at the last two years, there have been a lot of games where they single-handedly won us games or kept us in games. It was us returning the favor.”

Without their two best players and two primary scorers, Thursday’s victory showcased a more democratic offensive style, where ball movement and pace prevailed. But both Dosunmu and Donovan rejected the notion that the Bulls cede to a different style when LaVine and DeRozan play.

“I think just instinctively a lot of times on every team, when the clock gets down, guys are going to put the ball in the best creator’s hands,” Donovan said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily we’re relying on DeMar in those situations. I think there’s a comfort level that DeMar manipulates the game with his mind and can read the floor and generate something for himself or for someone else.”

Added Dosunmu: “I wouldn’t say we over-rely. The pace Coach wants us to play at, we have to buy in collectively and get better at. And that’s not just DeMar and Zach. That’s everybody. DeMar and Zach want to win. They understand how we need to play and to win at a high level. I have the utmost respect for those two guys doing whatever it takes to win.”

Donovan’s point is simple: Even with DeRozan and LaVine, the Bulls have the ability to get the ball downcourt faster, set more forceful screens and get into halfcourt actions faster and more deliberately.

“Our tempo, our pace, the way we played is sustainable,” Donovan said. “We’re not going to fly down the floor. Our team isn’t built like that. But once we get across halfcourt, we’ve got to play to get the defense moved around a little built and not have to deal with so many heavy shifts and loads and length and size.”

The next test is Saturday, and it will be without at least LaVine.

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