Bulls try to keep a smile as a rough rebuilding begins

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 4: Kris Dunn #32 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 4, 2017 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Maybe he was just being nice. Perhaps he was truthful when asked about his former team on Monday night.

It came after Dwyane Wade, who took a buyout from the rebuilding Bulls to join the Cavaliers, scored 24 points off the bench in a “Turn Back the Clock” moment at the United Center. Now a veteran piece of the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, he was asked what he thought of his former team and their new path as a franchise.

“They just play hard, man,” said Wade of the Bulls, whom his Cavaliers crushed 113-91 on Monday night. “They’re trying to build something here. Offensively they’re moving bodies, they’re moving the ball. You saw LeBron came out early, they get you tired, the way they move. They’re building a culture over there and I love to see it. Those young guys are playing, they’re enjoying the game.

“It sucks to lose but if they continue to keep playing that way, eventually they’ll take steps in the right direction.”

While they may appreciate the compliment, it’s easier to say when you’re not apart of it. At the moment, it’s not exactly fun being the Chicago Bulls.

Starting with the Bobby Portis punch of Nikola Mirotic, it’s been a rough month-and-a-half to open the 2017-2018 season, the first of rebuilding for the Bulls that started with the trade of Jimmy Butler along with the buyout of Wade.

The defeat on Monday was their ninth-in-a-row, dropping their record to 3-19 on the season. That’s last in the NBA by a game-and-a-half, a race for the worst record and best chance for the top pick that will the be the most talked about achievement from now until April.

Till then, Fred Hoiberg has to trot out his team for 60 more games of learning on the fly and taking some difficult lessons. One of those came against a Cavaliers team that figures to be contending in June yet again, with LeBron James leading the well-oiled machine to an easy victory. These kind of games get old at the beginning of December, so how will the Bulls deal with that over the next four months?

Kris Dunn, one of those young players who is key to the team’s rebuild, has one simple suggestion.

“Smile,” said Dunn when asked about keeping the team positive. “Just smile. It’s a game that we love, it’s a dream. We just have to go out there and smile, don’t hang your head, because only bad things happen when you’re negative. So just try to be positive.”

That’s a lot harder done than said, but Dunn is one of those players who could be a catalyst to keep at least a pulse of positivity through the team. He’s done so individually, shaking off a preseason injury that kept him out early in the season to scored 11.8 points per game while dishing 4.4 assists a contest.

Dunn has been far from perfect, but he’s not stressing over it. All he’s trying to do is spread a little cheer.

“I think it just starts with communication. Just go out there and have a positive mind. Try to encourage the players,” said Dunn. “When somebody makes a good pass, somebody knocks a shot down, try to encourage them.”

He’ll have to do that – because they won’t get much outside of their locker room from now until April.