Dosunmu continued defying the odds of a second round draft pick in his rookie campaign, and with Chicago’s best players found in street clothes more frequently than in uniform, he might be just what the city needed.
There was some truth to what perennial NBA All-Star Anthony Davis was insisting a few years back.
Chicago really did feel like the real “Mecca of basketball’’ at the time.
Nowadays? Not so much.
With Davis and Derrick Rose injured and found on the bench in street clothes most nights, and Jabari Parker currently without a team, it’s a fashion show more than a mecca. It’s become “Who are you wearing?’’ rather than “How are you playing?’’
Ayo Dosunmu is doing his damnedest to change that … one eye-opening fearless performance at a time.
Just look at who the rookie from Morgan Park High School has been asked to guard the past few weeks. In the Saturday loss to Boston he was on Jayson Tatum, last week it was Luka Doncic, and he’s already butted heads with Trae Young.
Monday in Memphis, get ready for MVP candidate Ja Morant.
Then look at what Dosunmu has done with the rest of his game.
He started the season with his hometown Bulls as a second-round pick with a first-round chip on his shoulder, fought his way into energy guy off the bench, became a regular fixture in the rotation, and then in his latest showcase, started and played point guard against the Celtics.
All he did in that game was become the first rookie in NBA history to score at least 20 points – he finished with 21 – hand out 10 assists, and shoot 90% from the field. Dosunmu went 9-for-10 in the loss, including 3-for-3 from three-point range.
Not bad for a guy that went 0-for-5 the night before in the loss to Golden State.
“I had a tough night, didn’t play to my standards,’’ Dosunmu said of his performance against the Warriors. “But I knew we had another chance [Saturday] to get better. So I wanted to establish that mentality.
“It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and there are so many games that you can’t get too high or too low. That was my challenge. And then coach [Billy] Donovan said we weren’t playing hard enough. All the coaches that I played for, play hard since I was four years old was one of the main things you have to do to compete. So I wanted to play as hard as I can. That’s the type of player I am. Whenever my coach asks for something, I know that he means it genuinely. I just do whatever I can to follow through on what his request is. I just want to play as hard as I can.’’
Dosunmu checked a lot of boxes in that game for the Bulls, who were missing their starting backcourt with Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball each working through knee issues.
“For a young guy like him to play with so much poise and not get rushed into making quick decisions, just playing smart ball, is impressive at that age,’’ veteran center Nikola Vucevic said. “Especially only in his third start and played however many games we played so far. He played well at both ends. He’s been doing that all year long. It’s a huge addition for us.’’
And a huge addition for the city.
Chicago needs a star to carry that hoops torch. Davis still has a lot of basketball left, and even Rose has moments as a key reserve for the Knicks when he’s healthy. So there’s no rush for Dosunmu.
But that’s been the impressive part of his make-up – he doesn’t follow timeline expectations and usual paths. For Dosunmu it’s not if he’ll be a star from Chicago, but how quickly?
“You have to grow up fast,’’ the 21-year-old added. “I’m trying to compete, and play how I know I can play.’’