Billy Donovan

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.’’

Bulls Notes: Vučević, Ball, Caruso, Williams, Donovan

The Bulls revamped their roster over the offseason, but Nikola Vučević will still be a focal point of the team’s new high-octane offense, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Vučević had a game-high 18 field goal attempts in the Bulls’ blowout preseason victory (121-85) over the Pelicans Friday night. New teammates Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar DeRozan are all finding the All-Star center in good positions to score.

With all the guys I have around me now,” Vučević said, “I have so many opportunities to score: trail 3s, drive-and-kick, off pick-and-pops, on rolls and dump-offs. We have so many guys who are good on the ball and that are willing passers, as a big man, it’s a luxury to have. We just have to get used to each other and build that chemistry, and I think it’ll be great for everybody.”

On a team with three 20-plus points per game scorers (Vučević, DeRozan, and Zach LaVine averaged a combined 72.4 PPG last season), Vučević knows he might not be the primary option every night, but his looks should be easier to convert, and he’s perfectly fine with that, per Mayberry.

It will come easier to me because we have so much talent out there that it’s harder for defenses to take stuff away. When we do a two-man game, any type of actions, it’s going to open up a lot for everybody. For me, the same. I think it will be easier to get touches in better spots,” Vucevic said.

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • Ball was unfazed when facing his former team last night, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. Ball’s laid-back demeanor has served him well when faced with the near-constant rumor mill that has followed his career, Cowley notes. “I always have rumors circling around me all year,” Ball said. “So, I mean, it’s been the same for me the last four years. I’m just happy to be here.”
  • In the same piece, Cowley says that Caruso continues to praise former Lakers teammate LeBron James. “I owe a lot to [James] for where I am today. Obviously, I put a lot of work in, but he makes me look good. He makes the team look good. When you win, everybody gets paid, everybody gets to do a job. Being part of his legacy and being a part of that team for the last couple of years was fun for me,” Caruso said.
  • Cowley also relays that Patrick Williams, the fourth pick of the 2020 NBA draft, hasn’t recovered yet from his ankle sprain, but if he’s able to start practicing by next weekend, Cowley thinks there’s a good chance he’ll be ready for opening night at Detroit.
  • Coach Billy Donovan appreciated his time working with veterans Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, and Thaddeus Young, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “You talk to these veteran guys like Garrett and Thad and Sato and the word that always comes out of their mouth is ‘We. We’ve got to do this better.’ A lot of times, players say, ‘I.’ They were always ‘We,’” Donovan said. “I just admire that not only did they take care of themselves, they took care of the group.”
  • Follow more Bulls notes and rumors on our team page here.

Central Notes: Bulls Starters, Healthy Cavs, Diallo, Weaver

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan is rumored to be making significant changes to the club’s starting lineup, a source informs Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Veteran Tomáš Satoranský could replace second-year point guard Coby White, and veteran forward Thaddeus Young could be moved in to start ahead of third-year center Wendell Carter Jr. as soon as tonight, in time for the team’s game against the Raptors.

Slow starts have impeded the Bulls lately, losers of four of their last five contests. Mayberry notes that Chicago’s traditional starters have been struggling. The team’s starting five of White, Carter, All-Star Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, and Lauri Markkanen is averaging a lackluster minus-17.6 net rating. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details what the changes – should they transpire – mean for the Bulls.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The 14-23 Cavaliers have not had been able to field a fully healthy roster for most of the season, but with Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. back in the lineup, the team has some rotation decisions to make, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. “I don’t know the last time we had a full, available roster,” Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Been frustrating for us as coaches because it’s been different positions as we’ve moved through it.” Before they returned Friday, Love had been unavailable for 33 games, while Nance had missed the preceding 12.
  • Athletic Pistons swingman Hamidou Diallo, arriving fresh from the Thunder after a deal yesterday, will serve as an exciting addition to Detroit, thanks in large part to his exceptional defensive upside, writes Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver may not be done reshaping Detroit’s roster, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. After adding Diallo this weekend and waiving Blake Griffin earlier this month, it’s become clear that Weaver is prioritizing a younger, more athletic future.

Central Notes: D. Smith, LeVert, Wade, Bulls

Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr., acquired in a trade with the Knicks on February 7, has shown flashes since that deal of the potential that made him a lottery pick in 2017. Smith has averaged 8.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG for Detroit, and had his best game on Wednesday, putting up a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Raptors.

Smith and teammate Mason Plumlee were the first Pistons players to put triple-doubles in the same game in 57 years (link via Pistons.com). Before joining his new team, Smith had only played in three games for the Knicks this season and had requested to play in the G League.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert has progressed to doing practice drills, and 1-on-1 training, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. LeVert underwent surgery to remove a previously unknown kidney cancer in January after being traded to the Pacers in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn.
  • Cavaliers second-year forward Dean Wade, who recently had his 2020/21 salary guaranteed, has started in the last five games after no prior starts in his first 35 NBA games. Most recently, he had 17 points and six rebounds against the Pacers on Wednesday. “I never doubted myself,” Wade said, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “Obviously, through the whole journey, every once in a while, you’re going to think, ‘Can I do it?’… “I’ve always believed in myself.”
  • Tension between a head coach and a GM has been a recurring theme for Jerry Reinsdorf‘s franchises over the years, but there doesn’t seem to be any drama between new Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovanwrites Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I think he’s doing a great job,” Karnisovas said of Donovan. “I’ve watched all the media availabilities by him… And I think the one question that’s always coming up is, ‘When do they meet? When do they talk?’ We talk every day. We talk before every practice, we spend time during practices, talk after practices, before games, after games, so the communication is always there. I expected that, and more so, there’s no misunderstandings from my side or his side.” 

Central Notes: LaVine, Young, Lamb, Nance, Pistons

Zach LaVine is enjoying a career year in Billy Donovan‘s first season with the Bulls, and the success of that pairing bodes well for the team’s long-term outlook, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and word around the NBA suggests that LaVine won’t be either, Johnson adds.

With LaVine expected to be unavailable on the trade market in the coming weeks, the Bulls’ most valuable trade chip could be Thaddeus Young. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) says a handful of league executives identified Young as a player who could impact the playoff race if he’s moved, noting that he’s a versatile big man on a reasonable contract who has plenty of postseason experience.

The Bulls currently hold the sixth seed in the East and figure to be in the mix for a playoff spot – perhaps via the play-in tournament – but Marks argues the club should take a big-picture view and consider moving Young, especially if a team is willing to give up a first-round pick for him.

Johnson, on the other hand, contends in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story that moving Young for anything short of a lottery pick or a very promising young player might be a mistake. As Johnson explains, the veteran forward has had a positive impact on LaVine on and off the court, and LaVine and the Bulls’ other young players need to get some postseason experience at some point — Young could play an important role in helping get them there.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • It has been a full year since Jeremy Lamb suffered a torn left ACL, and while it takes some players a while to get back to 100% following that injury, the Pacers guard has thrived since making his season debut on January 20, writes Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. Lamb is averaging 12.2 PPG in just 24.7 minutes per contest, and has made an even 50% of his three-point attempts through 17 games. “It’s great to see how far I’ve been able to come,” Lamb said. “I’m still getting stronger, still working on it, but it’s encouraging.”
  • Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., who underwent surgery on his hand earlier this month, is making positive progress and recently had his cast removed, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Nance was ruled out at least six weeks when he underwent the procedure, so we won’t see him back until sometime after the All-Star break.
  • Missing their top two point guards, the Pistons are seeing some positive signs from Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Lee, who has averaged 15.3 PPG and 4.3 APG in his last three games, is showing why GM Troy Weaver referred to him as part of Detroit’s “core four” of rookie building blocks, despite the fact that Lee was a second-round pick who signed a two-way deal, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

Bulls Notes: Donovan, Roster, Temple, Satoransky

The Bulls need to do a better job of overcoming adversity, new coach Billy Donovan told reporters, including Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune, following a second straight disastrous performance. After trailing by as many as 40 points in the season opener, Chicago was embarrassed again Saturday, this time by Indiana. The Bulls fell behind by 30 at one point, giving up a 21-0 run in the second quarter and an 18-0 run in the third.

It’s not what Chicago fans were expecting after an offseason of change that brought in Donovan to replace Jim Boylen as head coach and Arturas Karnisovas to run the front office. Donovan believes improvement won’t begin to show until players learn how to deal with difficulty.

“They don’t handle (adversity). They don’t at all,” he said. “They internalize their mistakes, they internalize what’s going on, and I’ve said this before, they’ve got to do this together. They’ve got to fight together, do it together. We’re probably on most nights probably not going to be the most athletic or the most talented or the most experienced, but we can be a team — we have control over it — that can have a lot more fight in ourselves there. I came out on the court one time because I saw them come out of the huddle and they just all looked totally dejected.”

There’s more Bulls news to pass along:

  • Despite management changes, the team won’t get any better until it overhauls the roster, contends Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The Bulls brought back 14 of their 17 players from last year’s 22-43 team, including several who are miscast in their current roles, Mayberry adds. He sees Coby White as more of a shooter than a lead guard, while Zach LaVine isn’t efficient enough to be the first scoring option. Mayberry also questions the decision to draft Patrick Williams with the No. 4 pick instead of trading down to acquire more assets.
  • Free agent addition Garrett Temple, one of the few new faces in Chicago, promises to bring toughness to the team, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘I don’t think we have soft guys here by any means, so it’s a matter of building the right habits,” Temple said. “And that starts in practice.”
  • Tomas Satoransky was available for the first time Saturday after being quarantined due to contact tracing, Cowley adds in the same piece. Satoransky, who didn’t test positive for COVID-19, said the waiting was difficult. ‘‘It was very tough for me being at home, not being able to work out or doing anything,’’ he said. ‘‘Just self-quarantine myself. … You only can control some of it, and you have to be mentally strong and be ready to come back and accept the role you will have after this. … It really tests you mentally and is another challenge you have to go through this season.’’

Bulls Notes: Young, Williams, Markkanen, Porter

There’s no timetable for Thaddeus Young‘s return after a bout with MRSA, a bacterial infection, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago reports. The Bulls forward had his leg drained after it swelled up and it’s healing well but he didn’t play in any preseason games.

“There will probably be some sort of ramp-up period for [Young], so to speak, in terms of he’s missed some conditioning and a lot of practice,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “He was dealing with a hamstring right around the time we started training camp. We’ll have to work to get him back.”

We have more on the Bulls:

  • While the rest of the starting lineup seems set, the small forward position remains in flux, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times reports. Donovan is trying to choose between Otto Porter Jr. and lottery pick Patrick Williams and they bring different skills, Cowley notes.
  • Lauri Markkanen didn’t receive a rookie scale extension prior to Monday’s deadline but he could still be a part of the long-term future, Cowley writes in a separate story. The new front office regime and Donovan simply put off making that decision by seeing what Markkanen does this season and allowing him to set a market price as a restricted free agent. The two sides never got close to an extension agreement, Cowley adds.
  • Despite Porter’s massive $28.5MM expiring contract, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic predicts Chicago will move him at the trade deadline. The team would likely need to include multiple players, as any trade partner wouldn’t give up a high-salary starter for him.