Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan Has Contract Extension With Bulls

Coach Billy Donovan signed an extension with the Bulls before the season began, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Donovan had two years remaining on his current deal when he negotiated the extension during the offseason. Charania doesn’t provide details of the extension, but he writes that Donovan is now under contract “for several more years.”

Chicago is just 86-88 under Donovan, but the team has shown steady progress since he became head coach. The Bulls were coming off a 22-win season when he was hired in 2020. They went 31-41 in Donovan’s first season, then improved to 46-36 and reached the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Charania points out that Chicago was among the league’s best teams last season before Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury in January. Through January 1, the Bulls were fifth in the league in offense and 10th in defense and they held the best record in the East for much of that time.

The team is currently 8-10 as Ball remains sidelined after another surgical procedure on his left knee in September. Sources tell Charania that Ball and the team remain hopeful that he can return sometime in the new year.

The 57-year-old Donovan came to the NBA in 2017 after winning two NCAA championships at Florida. He compiled a 243-157 record as head coach in Oklahoma City, which was a playoff team in all five seasons he spent there.

Central Notes: Osman, LaVine, Middleton, Matthews, Pistons

Cedi Osman has received sporadic playing time and has been the subject of trade rumors but the Cavaliers forward has usually taken advantage of his opportunities, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes.

After playing just seven minutes against Charlotte on Friday, Osman got 37 minutes of court action the next night against Miami and put up 20 points and 12 rebounds. He’s likely to receive plenty of playing time on Monday with Caris LeVert out due to an ankle sprain.

“He’s one of those guys where there’s a spirit and an energy that we depend on, and we know the lift he gives us,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I think Friday night he didn’t play as much, and I think he wanted to show he was going to take advantage of his minutes.”

Osman’s future beyond 2022/23 is uncertain, as his salary for next season isn’t guaranteed.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Zach LaVine said there’s no ill feelings between him and Bulls coach Billy Donovan, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. LaVine was upset when he was benched during a loss to Orlando on Friday. “Me and Billy talk all the time,” LaVine said. “It’s a tough decision. Obviously, I’m a competitive guy. I want to play. I just told him I feel like I’ve earned the right to go out there and try to play through a bad game. His decision was to try to do the best thing for the team, which I respect. If we won, obviously I would’ve been ecstatic. We lost, I wasn’t. I had a terrible game.”
  • The Bucks assigned Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews to the G League’s Wisconsin Herd, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. That allowed the rehabbing players to get some practice time. The Bucks didn’t practice since they’re playing against Portland on Monday.
  • The Pistons played without three injured starters — Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart — at Sacramento on Sunday and lost despite scoring a season-high 129 points. Coach Dwane Casey said the team needs to push through adversity, Keith Langlois of writes. “It’s not ‘Woe is me’ right now in the locker room,” Casey said. “We’ve got to stay together, stay connected.”

Zach LaVine Frustrated By Late-Game Benching

Bulls star Zach LaVine was on the bench for the final three minutes and 43 seconds of the team’s 108-107 loss to Orlando on Friday and was “obviously frustrated” when he spoke to reporters after the game about the decision, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

LaVine had scored just four points on 1-of-14 shooting in his first 25 minutes and was a team-worst minus-19 on the night. When head coach Billy Donovan replaced him with Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls were down 101-97. The team subsequently went on a 10-2 run before ultimately losing the game on a Jalen Suggs three-pointer with five seconds remaining.

“That’s Billy’s decision. He gotta lay with it,” LaVine said, per Johnson. “Do I agree with it? No. I think I can go out there and still be me even if I miss some shots. But that’s his decision. He has to stand on it.

“I’ve missed a lot of shots, man. But I’ve had a lot of games where I played terrible and in four to five minutes, I can get 15, 16 points. I just wasn’t able to shoot the next shot.”

In addition to his struggles on offense, LaVine looked “a step slow” on defense, according to Johnson. The two-time All-Star said he wasn’t sure whether he’d talk to Donovan to seek out an explanation for the decision, but the Bulls’ head coach offered one voluntarily during his own postgame media session.

“He had a tough night shooting and I thought that group really fought their way back into the game,” Donovan said, referring to the five-man unit of Dosunmu, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso, and Javonte Green. “I played DeMar the whole second half. He seemed like he was fine physically. I came back to Zach and it was one of those games for him. He just didn’t have a great game. Great players, it happens. He cares deeply about the team. He just wasn’t playing well.

“… I’m sure he’s really disappointed. He’s a really, really competitive guy. I love working with him every day. He’s about the team. I know how much he puts into it and how much it means to him,” Donovan continued, adding that he wasn’t worried about the move having any long-term ramifications.

“The ramifications of him not being out there, to me, I was trying to do what was best for our team in that moment. That’s my job and my responsibility. I thought that was the best decision at the time. To me, I don’t look at it as anything else other than a one-off game. I know he wanted to be out there. There probably aren’t very many games in his career that he hasn’t been out there in those minutes. But that group was playing well.”

LaVine is coming off an eventful summer in which he underwent left knee surgery and also signed a five-year, maximum-salary contract worth approximately $215MM. He has missed a few games already this season as the Bulls manage his recovery from that surgery and has yet to fully hit his stride — his 20.7 points per game and 41.5% shooting percentage are his lowest marks since he averaged 16.7 PPG on 38.3% shooting in an injury-shortened 2017/18 season, his first year in Chicago.

Although LaVine wasn’t thrilled by having to watch the deciding moments of a close loss – the Bulls’ fourth in a row – from the sidelines, he said on Friday night that he’ll try to move past it.

“Obviously, I have to do a better job at the beginning of the game. I gotta make my shots,” LaVine said. “But you play a guy like me down the stretch. That’s what I do. Do I like the decision? No. Do I gotta live with it? Yeah and be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.”

Bulls Notes: Dosunmu, Markkanen, Williams, Ball, White

Second-year Bulls point guard Ayo Dosunmu wants his head coach Billy Donovan to hold nothing back in his approach, and Donovan has delivered, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Mayberry notes that Donovan is generally more conversant with younger Chicago players than he is with the team’s vets.

“He just wants me to reach my full potential,” Dosunmu said of Donovan. “He tells me a lot. He’s always coaching with tough love. I love that because that’s making me become a better player. I want to soak up as much information as I can to try to get better every game. Coach does that. He’s always on me when I do things positive and negative. And I think at the end of the day that’s going to make me become a better player and help our team become a better team.”

In his second NBA season, the 6’5″ guard out of Illinois is averaging 11.7 PPG on .488/.353/.923 shooting splits. He is also chipping in 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG and 0.8 SPG.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Seven-foot Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted by the Bulls with the No. 7 pick in 2017 out of Arizona, has enjoyed a breakout run with an upstart 10-5 Utah club thus far. Chicago can learn a lot from Markkanen’s growth into a fringe All-Star talent, especially with regards to the way the team handles raw third-year forward Patrick Williams, opines K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Although the Bulls are clearly missing the three-point marksmanship and perimeter defense of injured starting point guard Lonzo Ball, the team’s bigger problems will remain even after he returns, Johnson writes in a separate piece. The Bulls lack reliable volume three-point shooters and solid two-way players, which is part of the reason Chicago has is off to a middling 6-9 start this season.
  • Young Bulls role players Williams and Coby White are listed as questionable to play on Friday against a beatable 4-11 Magic team, reports Rob Schafer of NBC Sports Chicago. White’s status actually represents an improvement, as he has missed the last eight Chicago contests with a left quad contusion. Williams sprained his right ankle late in the Bulls’ 124-110 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday.

Central Notes: Williams, Caruso, Pistons Offseason, Hayes

After being sidelined with a wrist injury since October, Bulls power forward Patrick Williams seems happy to be back on the floor for Chicago in any capacity. Though Williams was a starter in his five games pre-injury this season, head coach Billy Donovan has opted to play him off the bench during his first two games back this week. Williams does not mind the switch, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I’m fine with it, as long as I can contribute to the team,” Williams said ahead of his first game back with the Bulls, an eventual 113-99 win over the Raptors on Monday. “I plan on being in this league for a long time. Sitting out for five months, I may not be able to show everything. But just help the team win in any way (I can)… I think winning takes care of everything. If we win, everybody’s happy. No matter how many points you scored, no matter how many minutes you played, everybody’s happy. If you get a ring, everybody gets a ring.”

Williams proved a key contributor even in limited minutes during that victory against the Raptors, and reiterated his excitement about returning to the floor in his postgame comments, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“It was amazing,” Williams said. “Just having something taken from you for so long, something that you love and finally being able to get it back and enjoy the game, there’s really nothing like it.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Donovan has opted to make a change in his starting rotation with Bulls starting point guard Lonzo Ball still shelved and reserve guard Alex Caruso back healthy. Though a good defender, rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu has been demoted to the bench in favor of the more experienced Caruso, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I just felt like since Alex had his legs under him a little bit, starting off with that group defensively could give us a little bit better energy,” Donovan explained. “AC is extremely smart and brings so much with IQ and defense and spacing the floor and shot making,’’ All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine said regarding the change. “With him moving into the [starting] lineup and Ayo going back [a reserve role], I think it’s going to be a switch up.”
  • The Pistons, the No. 15 seed in the East, have plenty of intriguing decisions facing them in the 2022 offseason. In a new mailbag, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic examines several key summer storylines. Edwards anticipates team president Troy Weaver possibly targeting a player with a handle in the draft or free agency to pair with rookie guard Cade Cunningham. Edwards also discusses his expectations for the future of forward Jerami Grant, as well as that of power forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and a restricted free agent this summer.
  • Second-year Pistons guard Killian Hayes has struggled to develop this season amid injuries, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Since being shifted to a bench role, Hayes has at least been able to expect a certain amount of guaranteed run when he is available. “I’ve gotten used to coming off the bench at the five- or six-minute mark but starting and just getting back to that rhythm, it’s right into the game,” Hayes said. “You don’t have time to go back to the locker room and see how the game goes, so just be ready. I think I’m ready for both (starting and reserve roles).”

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Spoelstra, Oladipo, Bertans

The Hawks have won eight of their last 10 games, but they still face an uphill battle to avoid the play-in tournament because the first half of their season was such a disaster, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta looked ready to establish itself among the Eastern contenders after reaching the conference finals last season, but a rough start left the team with a huge hole to climb out of. Even after the recent hot streak, the Hawks are in 10th place, four games out of the sixth spot and a chance to skip the play-in competition.

“We did it to ourselves,” Kevin Huerter said. “We know it’s a grind. We knew two weeks ago when we were eight games under .500 that it was going to take a lot to get ourselves back in the mix. It feels like we’ve only done half the job so far. Half the job is winning seven straight. It’s a good feeling to have won seven straight. I think, for us, the feeling is better knowing that we’re playing better. We’re seeing results that we’ve wanted all year. We have to continue playing like this.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat’s victory tonight means the race to be the Eastern Conference coach in the All-Star Game will be determined by Sunday’s game in Chicago, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. If the Bulls defeat the Sixers, they will be a half game better at the cutoff point and Billy Donovan will coach the game. If Chicago loses, the Heat will have the East’s best record at 34-20 and Erik Spoelstra will be the Eastern representative for the second time.
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo is working out several times a day as he tries to come back from last May’s surgery on his right quadriceps tendon, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Oladipo participated in a 2-on-2 session with teammates after this morning’s shootaround and then shot extensively before the start of tonight’s game.
  • Bijan Todd of NBC Sports Washington looks at potential destinations for Wizards forward Davis Bertans, who has been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $80MM deal. Todd notes that the Thunder and Pistons have the cap room to take on Bertans’ contract, while the Celtics and Trail Blazers may also be possibilities.

Billy Donovan Enters Health And Safety Protocols

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Johnson adds (via Twitter) that assistant Chris Fleming will serve as Chicago’s acting head coach in Donovan’s absence.

Things appeared to be trending in the right direction for the Bulls, who at one point had 10 players in the COVID-19 protocols. The team’s last five affected players exited the protocols on Thursday, prompting Donovan to joke about having too many players at practice, rather than not enough. Now, Donovan himself has apparently returned either a positive or inconclusive COVID-19 test.

Assuming Donovan tested positive and that result is confirmed, he’ll likely be away from the club for at least 10 days.

He’s the fourth NBA head coach this month to enter the health and safety protocols. Rick Carlisle has since been cleared and rejoined the Pacers, while Lakers coach Frank Vogel and Kings coach Alvin Gentry remain sidelined.

Central Notes: Johnson, Donovan, Dosunmu, Pistons

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson was apparently almost drafted by the Cavaliers. Johnson discussed his near-selection in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter video link). The Cavaliers instead opted to draft Dylan Windler with the No. 26 pick in the 2019 draft, while Johnson was ultimately drafted by San Antonio with the No. 29 pick.

Injuries have limited Windler’s availability across two NBA seasons. Windler missed his entire 2019/20 rookie season with a leg injury. In just 48 games, Windler holds career averages of 4.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, and 1.1 APG over 14.5 MPG.

“I was expecting to go the Cavs,” Johnson said. “Going back to draft night, I just feel like it’s a blessing I landed with the Spurs.”

The 22-year-old small forward out of Kentucky is averaging 14.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.0 APG for the Spurs. He boasts a slash line of .469/.410/657.

The 13-10 Cavaliers have enjoyed a breakout 2021/22 season, currently good for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. One can only imagine what Cleveland would look like had the club selected Johnson instead of Windler, though in so doing the team may have played its way out of the third pick in the 2021 draft that netted them breakout rookie big man Evan Mobley out of USC.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan expects the NBA will adopt stricter COVID-19 policies with the winter holidays on the horizon, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is currently missing guard Coby White and forward Javonte Green due to COVID-19 diagnoses. ‘‘I think that’s happening,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any question that’s happening. My guess is stricter policies than there have already been this year. ‘‘[The holidays], people are going to be around family. The way it’s moving right now, it’s getting a little stricter. For us right now it’s a lot stricter because we have two players that are positive.’’
  • Bulls rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu, a second-round draft pick out of Illinois, has earned rotation minutes in the season’s first quarter. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago examines how Dosunmu is adjusting to playing at the NBA level. “I think I’m getting better each game,” the rookie said. “One thing I love about Coach Donovan is he shows so much tough love to me. After every game, whether I play a lot or I don’t play a lot, he always calls me over and gives me words of encouragement. Sometimes it may be good. Sometimes it may be bad. I take the constructive criticism and try to help myself become a better player because I know that he obviously sees something in me if he’s coaching me hard.”
  • The end result of the 2021/22 season for the Pistons will be measured more by player improvement than by the year-end win-loss tally, opines Rod Beard of the Detroit News. The youth-oriented club, led by forward Jerami Grant and 2021 top pick Cade Cunningham, is currently the bottom seed in the East with a 4-18 record.

And-Ones: Bulls-Heat Pick Forfeiture, Next Stars, Trade Market, Williams, Donovan

NBA executives and player agents believe the Bulls and Heat received a proverbial slap on the wrist for violating league policies in the free agent acquisitions of Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report writes.

The teams will have to forfeit their next available second-round pick, but that is unlikely to prevent other teams from trying to circumvent the rules in pursuit of free agents. Second-round picks appear more available than ever, Fischer notes.

As part of the league’s investigation and subsequent penalty, Chicago and Miami can’t trade any of their currently held future second-round draft picks until the forfeiture is resolved, Fischer reports.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Due to the success of LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey, Australia is increasingly viewed by European prospects as a springboard to the NBA, according to Ken Maguire of The Associated Press. According to NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger, the Next Stars program has become so popular, the league had to turn “people away in droves.” Four of this season’s seven Next Stars are from Europe and another French prospect is playing for the New Zealand Breakers.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks takes an in-depth look at this year’s trade market, breaking down the league’s players into three categories — those with expiring contracts; those on multi-year deals; and those with trade restrictions. Marks notes that only the Thunder can acquire a player via cap space, so the rest of the teams will need to trade salaries that match within 125%, 175% or $5MM, depending on how much salary is changing hands and whether or not the teams are taxpayers.
  • The Suns’ Monty Williams and the Bulls’ Billy Donovan have been named the league’s Coaches of the Month for games played in October and November, NBA Communications tweets. Phoenix is on the verge of setting a franchise record for most consecutive victories, while Chicago has a 14-8 record.

Central Notes: LeVert, Cade, Bulls, Williams, White

Pacers swingman Caris LeVert made his season debut on Saturday after a stress fracture sidelined him during training camp. LeVert learned a lot from the way he was thrown into the deep end last season following his return from a kidney surgery in March 2021, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. After just one post-surgery practice, the Pacers’ prior regime under embattled former head coach Nate Bjorkgren had LeVert play for 27 minutes of game action. LeVert had not yet communicated to the team that he was ready to play.

“I’m like, ‘Damn, OK, thrown right into it,” LeVert said of his prior experience. This season, under new head coach Rick Carlisle, the Pacers took a more measured approach with LeVert’s return from the stress fracture.

LeVert, the club’s starting small forward, suited up for Indiana’s seventh game of the young season, a 97-94 loss to the Raptors. Across 16 minutes of action, the 27-year-old LeVert poured in 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Despite losing the game, the 1-6 Pacers must be grateful to have gained LeVert following the injury layoff.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • No. 1 Pistons draft pick Cade Cunningham is looking forward to making his own mark in the NBA, after several of his fellow 2021 rookies have already made an impact on the young NBA season, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports“My class is full of big-time talent,” Cunningham said. “So I think it kind of motivates me more to be more of myself. I’m used to us pushing each other to be better. Now I’m excited to get my chance to do my thing.” In his NBA debut, a 110-103 victory over the Magic, Cunningham made just one field goal for two points. The 6’8″ guard out of Oklahoma State also logged seven rebounds, two assists and one block in 19 minutes of action.
  • After holding on for a solid 107-99 home court victory against the previously-undefeated Jazz last night, the 5-1 Bulls appear to be for real. The club, featuring 10 new players this season, is showcasing a new on-court persona, predicated around a fast pace and willingness to take free throws, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago“This, from an identity standpoint, is how we want to play,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the victory. “I thought this was one of our better games from start to finish. For the most part, the consistency was there for how we need to play.” The club’s surprisingly-great defense held Utah to just 38% shooting from the field while making them cough up the ball for 20 turnovers.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic posits that the Bulls are looking like one of the better teams in the league during this young season after the Jazz win. Mayberry highlights Chicago’s stellar, overpowering defense, noting that the Jazz had an awful 96.1 offensive rating on the night. Mayberry adds that reserves Derrick Jones Jr. and Tony Bradley exhibited plenty of defensive promise with their extended rotational minutes Saturday.
  • Though the Bulls could have enough depth this season to weather the injury absences of third-year guard Coby White and second-year forward Patrick Williams, both lottery selections, the team is missing out on key development windows for its two young players, opines Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley says that White is scheduled to have the condition of his injured shoulder assessed in November, and his return to the Bulls could happen as late as January. Williams could miss the whole season with a wrist injury that will require surgery. “I think we’ve got to as best we can organizationally help those guys get back and utilize this time as best they can,’’ head coach Billy Donovan said of dealing with the absences of White and Williams. “But it’s certainly not the most ideal situation for their development.’’