Billy Donovan

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.

Central Notes: Donovan, Temple, Turner, Warren, Gores

Bulls coach Billy Donovan is already building a strong foundation in Chicago, working to establish relationships with his players and instill a respected culture within the team, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes.

Donovan, who’s set to start his first season as head coach of the Bulls this week, spent the past five years coaching the Thunder. He led Oklahoma City to a surprising 44-28 record last season, good for the fifth-best in the Western Conference.

“He has a great track record with his players and he has done a great job so far of telling us what he needs out of us,” veteran forward Thaddeus Young said. “We had a meeting (early in camp) and he took time to really sit down as a team and tell us, ‘These are the things we need to do to win basketball game(s) and these are the things we need to do in order to fight through this thing.’ I think he’s done a great job so far.’’

Donovan hopes to guide the Bulls to their first playoff appearance since the 2016/17 season, leading a group that consists of Zach LaVine, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Patrick Williams and others.

Here are some other notes from the Central Division:

  • K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago examines how Garrett Temple could immediately help the Bulls in a separate story for NBC Sports Chicago. Temple, the team’s only acquisition in free agency, finished his first practice on Sunday after quarantining due to COVID-19. “Just talking guys through certain things that I see, whether it be defensive things, offensively or just making sure we stay together,” Temple said. “If a team goes on a 5-0 run, 10-0 run that we stay together and not put our heads down. Things of that nature are some things I think I can help out with right away.”
  • The Pacers expect to have Myles Turner and T.J. Warren available for their season opener against the Knicks on Wednesday, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. Turner had been coping with a concussion, while Warren had been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. “They were in a full physical, contact practice today and they looked good,” coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “There was a lot on 5-on-5. That’s what I would expect. They’re getting the green light to get closer and closer to that.”
  • A criminal justice group has submitted a letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver with hopes of forcing Pistons owner Tom Gores to sell the franchise, according to Davide Scigliuzzo of Bloomberg (via The Detroit News). The group’s concerns lie with Gores’ financial interest in Securus Technologies Inc., which came under fire this year for charging prisoners as much as $25 for a 15-minute call, Scigliuzzo writes.

Bulls Hiring Maurice Cheeks, Josh Longstaff As Assistants

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has begun to fill out his new coaching staff, as Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that Maurice Cheeks will be an assistant under Donovan in Chicago. The team is also hiring Josh Longstaff away from the Bucks to be an assistant coach on Donovan’s staff, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Cheeks is a logical fit for the Bulls, having been an assistant under Donovan with the Thunder for the last five years. He’s also a Chicago native, so joining the Bulls will be a homecoming for him. In addition to his two stints in Oklahoma City as an assistant coach, Cheeks has been an assistant for the 76ers and served as a head coach in Portland, Philadelphia, and Detroit.

As for Longstaff, he’s another former Thunder assistant, though he worked for the team from 2010-14 and didn’t overlap with Donovan. Since then, he has been an assistant for the Knicks, the head coach of the G League’s Erie BayHawks, and – for the last two years – a member of Mike Budenholzer‘s staff in Milwaukee. He’ll get the opportunity to become a front-of-the-bench assistant in Chicago, Wojnarowski notes.

The Bulls announced last month that assistants Roy Rogers, Dean Cooper, Nate Loenser, and Karen Stack Umlauf wouldn’t be returning to the team. Although the club is revamping its coaching staff for Donovan, it sounds like there will be at least one holdover in Chris Fleming.

Bulls’ Donovan Overhauling Coaching Staff

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has informed multiple assistant coaches still under contract with the team that they won’t be part of his staff for the 2020/21 season, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Roy Rogers, Dean Cooper, and Nate Loenser won’t be returning to to the club after working on Jim Boylen‘s staff last season, Johnson reports. Karen Stack Umlauf has also been let go, per an official announcement from the Bulls.

“I appreciate the time that I was able to spend with Dean, Nate, Roy and Karen. I really want to thank all of them for their service and commitment to the Chicago Bulls,” Donovan said in a statement. “This is the tough side to our business, and I wish all of them the best moving forward.”

Rogers had only completed one season on his three-year deal and Loenser had his team option for 2020/21 exercised in the spring, but Bulls ownership continues to give the team’s new decision-makers the green light to make changes even if they’ll cost the organization some money, per Johnson.

It’s possible the Bulls will make additional changes to their coaching staff, but for now it sounds as if Chris Fleming is sticking around. Fleming worked with new Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas in Denver during the 2015/16 season, and Johnson has previously reported that there’s a “trust factor” between the two men.

It remains to be seen who will join Donovan’s revamped staff in Chicago, but Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times speculates that Maurice Cheeks could be a candidate. Cheeks is a Chicago native and has been an assistant under Donovan for the last five years in Oklahoma City.

Central Notes: Donovan, Bucks, Oladipo, Thomas

New Bulls head coach Billy Donovan will greatly help the Chicago’s young roster, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times opines. In Donovan, the Bulls finally have a coach who will work to factor in the strengths of his players as he game-plans, as opposed to striving to make players conform to his system. Former Bulls head coaches Fred Hoiberg and Jim Boylen both struggled to fit their players into their preferred offensive systems.

“[O]ne of the things I’ve always felt is important when you’re building out different things offensively is I think you’ve got to spend time with players to hear how they want to be used,” Donovan said recently of the coaching philosophy he brings to the Bulls. “And then you build out how you want to play from there.’’

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic brainstorms potential routes through which the Bucks can upgrade their point guard position. Currently, 30-year-old starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, a two-time All-Defensive Team inclusion with Milwaukee, is earning $16.9MM and is with the team through the 2022/23 season. His contract for the final year is only partially guaranteed. Bledsoe’s limitations as an offensive creator hamper his fit with the Bucks. Backup point guard George Hill is earning $9.6MM through 2021/22, though the 2021/22 season is only partially guaranteed. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday is weighed as a trade option were the Bucks to flip Bledsoe and other pieces, while D.J. Augustin and Jeff Teague are considered as viable biannual exception signings.
  • The Pacers front office has recently spoken a couple times with star guard Victor Oladipo, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star tweets. Last week, there were rumblings that Oladipo, a free agent in 2021 and a two-time All-Star with Indiana, would be amenable to a trade.
  • As we previously relayedKhyri Thomas impressed Pistons coach Dwane Casey during Detroit’s recent mini-camp team practices. After undergoing a foot surgery last fall, Thomas was limited to just playing in eight games of the 2019/20 season.

Bulls Notes: Eversley, Roster, Donovan, Porter

After making the postseason for 10 of 11 seasons, the Bulls have appeared in the playoffs just once in the past five years, finishing in the lottery in each of the last three seasons. The club’s new basketball operations decision-makers are very aware of that fact, with general manager Marc Eversley telling reporters on Wednesday that bringing the franchise “back to relevance” is one of the front office’s primary goals.

“This is the Chicago Bulls. It’s an iconic brand,” Eversley said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “There’s a tremendous amount of history. It’s a responsibility. And I think we’ve embraced that.”

The Bulls are coming off back-to-back 22-win seasons (albeit in 17 fewer games in 2019/20), but Eversley said on Wednesday that he feels as if there’s enough talent on the roster to comfortably exceed that figure next season.

“I like a lot of the players on this roster,” Eversley said. “I think if we put together an efficient, effective player development program, I think you will see a quick turnaround in terms of the output that these players give. By going out and getting a Billy Donovan, who brings a different voice to the gym. He brings winning. He brings leadership. He brings player development. And I think if you put that voice at the top of this thing, I think our players will grow.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • According to Eversley, the Bulls were patient in conducting their coaching search, interviewing 10 candidates before pivoting and becoming aggressive once Donovan became available. “It’s interesting because as we were going through the process, one of the things that we had talked about was we need to be thorough and practice patience. And when Billy became available, I think (executive VP of basketball operations) Arturas (Karnisovas) called an Uber and he wanted to head to O’Hare right away,” Eversley joked, according to Johnson. “His aggressiveness was thorough, but it was also well thought out. And he had reasons why he thought we need to attack this thing and gather as much information as possible about Billy.”
  • Otto Porter Jr., who was limited to 14 games in 2019/20 due to a left foot fracture, has looked great at the Bulls’ in-market mini-camp, Eversley said on Wednesday (link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic). Porter is expected to pick up the $28.5MM player option on the final year of his contract.
  • In a separate article for The Athletic, Mayberry answers readers’ questions about the Donovan hiring, the possibility of a reunion with Joakim Noah, and the frontcourt pairing of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, among other topics.

Central Notes: Windler, Donovan, LaVine, Casey

Dylan Windler‘s return to the court has generated a buzz of excitement within the Cavaliers organization, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.

Windler, who underwent season-ending surgery in January for a stress fracture in his left leg, has impressed coaches and teammates alike during the team’s mini-camp. The Cavaliers selected him with the No. 26 in the 2019 draft, with the 24-year-old not playing in a single game this year.

“It was amazing for us to see him out there. I know it felt good for him,” Collin Sexton said. “Everyone went crazy because they know how bad he wanted to be out there.”

In addition to Windler, the Cavaliers sport a young nucleus consisting of Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. The team also has a number of veterans – including a star frontcourt duo in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond – and the No. 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft.

“It was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy. I remember that guy,’” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said of Windler. “He knows how to play. Super efficient. Can really shoot. He’s always around the ball. He hasn’t been hurt in his entire life, so it’s hard to be off that long. He’s excited to be back, doing his thing and when that silky smooth 3-ball goes in we are doing little fist-bumps too. He still needs to get through this week healthy and his body needs to respond the right way and has to get to NBA games and compete there, but we’re excited about him.”

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic explores what kind of coach Billy Donovan might be for the Bulls. Chicago hired Donovan last week, with the veteran coach coming off a stint with the Thunder. “I look at it as a positive of coaching some different teams,” Donovan said, “because it forces you as a coach to constantly every year have to figure out ways to make the group better. In today’s day and age in the game of basketball, there’s going to be turnover. You want to be able to find a way, however long or short your time is, to make a player better.”
  • Bulls star Zach LaVine hopes Donovan can be a long-term fix at head coach, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. Donovan will be LaVine’s sixth head coach in seven seasons, and the team’s leading scorer hopes that rate of turnover won’t continue. “I was extremely happy,” LaVine said of the Donovan hire. “Somebody with his track record not just in the NBA but in college as well, a whole ton of players who are proven saying how great of a guy he is and how good of a coach he is. People like me, when you want to be great, you want to be coached extremely well. I gave him a text right when I heard the news. And I told him hurry to get after it. I’m extremely excited. I think the whole organization is.”
  • The Pistons have looked to create an atmosphere of intense competition in the team’s mini-camp, head coach Dwane Casey said, as relayed by James Edwards of The Athletic (Twitter link). “The one thing I’ve seen this week … we wanted the competition, and guys are competing hard, taking charges,” Casey said. “We wanted to create the atmosphere of competition. They’ve responded.”

Details On Billy Donovan’s New Contract

The Bulls‘ previous coach, Jim Boylen, was one of the NBA’s lowest-paid head coaches, having reportedly been set to earn just $1.6MM in 2020/21. However, Chicago has made a substantially larger investment in its new head coach, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Billy Donovan received a four-year contract worth $24MM+ from the Bulls.

Donovan’s new deal doesn’t quite put him in the top tier of earners among NBA head coaches — Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich reportedly earn $10MM+ annually. However, it’s a significant investment, especially from a franchise that hasn’t made a habit of committing big money to coaches or executives.

Donovan’s five-year contract with the Thunder, which expired this summer, was said to be worth approximately $30MM, so his per-year salary will be about the same in Chicago.

Formally introducing Donovan to the media today, Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas referred to the former OKC coach as a “great communicator” who has a “team-first mentality,” per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Karnisovas told reporters, including Johnson (Twitter link), that he “could not stop smiling” after agreeing to a deal with Donovan.

For his part, Donovan praised Karnisovas for doing “a tremendous amount of homework on me,” referring to his new boss as having been “very proactive” in recruiting him to Chicago (Twitter link via Johnson).

The Bulls are currently conducting an offseason mini-camp in a bubble environment in Chicago, but Donovan won’t join the team within that bubble due to safety concerns and a lengthy quarantine process. Still, he has begun reaching out to his new players, tweets Johnson.