Bulls Nuggets Basketball

Bulls guard Kris Dunn is averaging 3.1 turnovers per game this season.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

CHICAGO — Kris Dunn is that 5-year-old you tell to stay away from the Christmas candy.

He nods, then sneaks another bite.

At age 23, Dunn is the Bulls' point guard of the future. He will be directing traffic for coach Fred Hoiberg, or a likely replacement, during the current rebuild and for years afterward.

Dunn has the size (6-foot-4, 208 pounds), quickness and athletic ability to be an All-Star one day, if he can just learn to play under control.

Turnovers are the sharp pebble in his shoe.

Giving is for the Salvation Army kettle drop, not the NBA when games are on the line.

"The big thing with Kris," says Hoiberg, "is his overall consistency and we talk about that every day."

Here's an example: Dunn had a career-high 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and hit all four 3-point attempts against the Suns last Tuesday.

He also had eight assists and four steals.

But before we declare a local holiday in his honor, Dunn fell back to earth like wet sand against the Kings on Friday — held to six points and going scoreless the second half of a one-point loss.

He's averaging 3.1 turnovers per game, often unforced, a definite no-no for any floor general.

The Bulls have the league's worst record (3-18) and are losers of eight straight games, which is why your point guard must be flawless.

Hoiberg has jumped on Dunn more than once for his sloppy play and silly fouls and, like that Christmas candy, he nods in agreement and then gives the ball up in crucial situations.

"I got to play with that aggression on defense or offense, and get everybody involved," Dunn said. "Just try to keep it rolling."

Teams draw confidence from their point guard, but the Bulls have been left shaking their heads after games this season.

"We need a win to boost our confidence and start a run," said Denzell Valentine. "You can have a good game (individually), but when you keep losing, nobody cares about us."

In their last three outings, they've fallen short against the Suns (104-97), Nuggets (111-110) and Kings (107-106) — games they should've won.

Why didn't they? Because they couldn't get stops. They couldn't hold leads. They rushed shots.

Turnovers were also to blame.

"In high school, college ... I got turnovers all my life but I want to be our lead point guard one day, so I understand the best point guards don't make those turnovers," Dunn said.

"Think a little smarter when you play."

Problem is, Dunn approaches every possession like there's 10 seconds left and the score's tied. That's his nature; pedal to the metal.

"This is just my second year. I'm still learning, trying to figure out what my game is, how I can help my team and how I can bring it each and every day," he said.

"You're going against the best players in the world and it's a long season — 82 games — even longer with the practices. It's tough."

Dunn averages 11.6 points and 4.4 assists. Being too aggressive often leads to his turnovers.

"That's the type of player I am," he said in a take-it-or-leave-it tone.

In a time when overpaid athletes mail it in, we have no choice but to take it — or hire a better coach.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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