Bulls Rumors

Exploring How Donovan Might Coach With Bulls; LaVine Approves Of Hire

  • 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.”

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.

Reactions To Bulls’ Billy Donovan Hire

The Bullshiring of Billy Donovan as their new head coach was met with positive reviews by rival executives and by agents of Bulls players alike, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. One Eastern Conference GM who spoke to Scotto pointed out that Donovan has yet to coach a team without a “strong personality,” meaning it will be interesting to see how he shapes Chicago’s young core.

“Looking at the other jobs for Billy, the only one that might have been better for him is New Orleans, but I can see why he went with Chicago,” the GM told HoopsHype. “They have young talent, lots of flexibility, a great city, and solid ownership.”

“It’s great,” an agent said of the Donovan hire. “He or Kenny Atkinson would’ve been good choices. They can only go up. They have a lot of talent and underachieved, so he can look really good when they do better.”

Here’s more on the Bulls’ new head coach:

  • Joakim Noah, who played under Donovan during his college days at Florida, lauded the hire in a conversation with K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s someone who cares about his players, someone who is very demanding, someone who is very competitive and just has a great balance to him,” Noah said. “It’s a great hire.” Nick Friedell of ESPN wonders (via Twitter) if a reunion between Noah and the Bulls could be in the cards now that Donovan is in the picture.
  • Zach LaVine was streaming Call of Duty on Facebook Gaming when word broke that the Bulls were hiring Donovan, so his reaction was captured live, as Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago details. “Oh damn, we got Billy Donovan as our next coach,” LaVine said on the feed. “Wow. That’ll be good… Really good coach.”
  • Donovan brings flexibility, crunch-time success, consistency, and player-development skills to the Bulls, writes Darnell Mayberry for The Athletic. Meanwhile, over at NBC Sports Chicago, Rob Schaefer’s breakdown of four ways Donovan can immediately help the Bulls covers some of the same bases as Mayberry’s piece.
  • While Chicago’s new head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas faced a little criticism for taking so long to part ways with previous head coach Jim Boylen, it’s worth noting that Donovan wouldn’t have been available if the team had moved quickly to replace Boylen when Karnisovas was hired in the spring, observes Jon Greenberg of The Athletic.

Bulls To Hire Cernivec As Scout

  • The Bulls have reportedly hired Vanja Cernivec as an international scout, per Daniel Greenberg (Twitter link; h/t Real GM). Cernivec spent the last five years working in the NBA’s office in Spain as manager of basketball operations. He also played professional basketball in Slovenia.

Coaching Rumors: Donovan, Billups, Bjorkgren, Walton

Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made a personal connection with Billy Donovan that helped him land his new coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this morning on “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” (video link). After Donovan left the Thunder two weeks ago, Karnisovas wanted to set up a meeting right away, according to Woj. The Bulls executive flew to Donovan’s Florida home a few days later and was able to sell him on the job.

Wojnarowski notes that Chicago has a recent history of taking chances on college coaches and veteran assistants, but has rarely hired someone with previous NBA head coaching experience. He adds that the Bulls have the talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East and Donovan could turn them into a desirable market for free agents.

Donovan said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding job in OKC, but Wojnarowski believes that will be less of a concern in Chicago. He said the Thunder are “cycling down” with a lot of veteran players and draft picks and may bottom out for a while before becoming good again. The Bulls have “players on the uptick” and could become contenders with the right coach.

There’s more on the NBA’s coaching carousel:

  • Wojnarowski passed along a few other rumors today (video link). The Sixers are ready to start bringing in coaching candidates and have already started conversations with Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue. Chauncey Billups is a name to watch for the Pacers, who have shown a willingness to hire former players with no coaching experience and surround them with a veteran staff. The Pelicans have been doing a “ton of background” and haven’t started formal interviews yet. The Rockets like interviewing a lot of people whenever they have an opening and will consider various combinations of head coaches and lead assistants. Woj expects the interview process to be lengthy in both Houston and Oklahoma City.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told Sirius XM Radio that assistant Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the opening with the Pacers (Twitter link).
  • The Kings‘ front office shakeup shouldn’t affect the job security of coach Luke Walton, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on a recent HoopsHype podcast. Amick believes new head of basketball operations Monte McNair was told before he was hired that the organization is “pretty invested both financially and kind of spiritually in Luke.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Cavaliers, Atkinson

With a new VP of basketball operations in control and now a new head coach set to stalk the sidelines, the Bulls with finally get fresh eyes for this year’s draft. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic takes an extensive look at Chicago’s various draft options with the fourth pick this season, as well as the team’s other pressing offseason issues.

Vecenie examines several options in play for the Bulls with the pick, assessing the potential fits of Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball, Georgia forward Anthony Edwards, Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton, Ulm guard Killian Hayes, Auburn wing Isaac Okoro, and Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija. Vecenie also appraises some realistic options for the Bulls’ No. 44 pick this season.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Central Division:

  • As the Pistons began their three-week team camp, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey and new general manager Troy Weaver found themselves aligned in terms of their thoughts on the team’s roster, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “We’ll talk about certain players and see the same things,” Casey said. “I think that’s very, very important that you look at the type of people you want to compete with, the type of people you want to go to battle with.”
  • This offseason, the Cavaliers front office, led by general manager Koby Altman, will prioritize adding “defensive-minded players” and “length and athleticism,” per Spencer Davies of Basketball News. The team has the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, and will have access to the full mid-level exception as it weighs potential additions.
  • As the Pacers continue their search for a new head coach, the team has conducted background research on former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, according to a new episode of the HoopsHype Podcast featuring Michael Scotto and guest Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Bulls Hire Billy Donovan As Head Coach

5:18pm: The Bulls have officially announced Donovan as their new head coach.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” Karnisovas said in a statement. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

5:00pm: The Bulls and Billy Donovan have reached a deal that will make him Chicago’s new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to Wojnarowski, new Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas “aggressively pursued” Donovan this month, as he and GM Marc Eversley felt that the former Thunder coach was the best candidate available.

Donovan, who had spent the last five years in Oklahoma City, parted ways with the Thunder following their elimination from the postseason earlier this month. He compiled a 243-157 (.608) regular-season record with the franchise during that time, making the postseason in each of his five years in OKC. He did arguably his most impressive work in 2019/20, guiding a roster that wasn’t viewed as playoff-ready to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.

While the Thunder reportedly had interest in retaining Donovan, there was a sense that the veteran coach didn’t want to stick around through a rebuilding process. In Chicago, he won’t be taking over a team that’s ready to immediately contend, but Karnisovas and the Bulls sold him on a “partnership and vision for a talented young roster,” as well as a chance to lead one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, says Wojnarowski.

The Bulls had been in the market for a new head coach since dismissing Jim Boylen in mid-August. At the time, Karnisovas indicated the team would conduct a comprehensive search and would focus on hiring someone who “puts the relationship with players first” and is “a good communicator.”

Among the candidates interviewed by Chicago, Kenny Atkinson, Ime Udoka, Darvin Ham, and Wes Unseld Jr. were said to have made good impressions in their meetings with the organization. However, Donovan was always viewed as a strong candidate for the job, having been linked to the Bulls immediately after his departure from Oklahoma City.

With Donovan off the market, a handful of teams still in the midst of their coaching searches will have to look elsewhere. The former Florida Gators coach was said to be on the Sixers‘ short list and reportedly met with the Pacers as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agency Looming, Dunn To Skip Mini-Camp

Guard Kris Dunn won’t participate in the Bulls’ mini-camp, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports. Dunn’s absence was expected, since he’s headed to free agency. The Bulls will have to extend him a qualifying offer of $7.1MM to make him a restricted free agent. Dunn didn’t play after January 31, when he suffered a sprained right MCL. His right knee is now healthy but he doesn’t want to take any chances of getting injured without a contract, Johnson adds.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Some of the Pistons’ roster decisions could be sorted out during their mini-camp, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. Big men Thon Maker and Justin Patton may be competing for a roster spot, as Maker can either be a restricted or unrestricted free agent while Patton has a non-guaranteed deal. Swingman Khyri Thomas and two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King might also need a strong showing for the club to retain them.
  • Pistons guard Bruce Brown believes forward Sekou Doumbouya will blossom in his second season, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Doumbouya saw significant playing time as a rookie due to Blake Griffin‘s knee injury, but his production was highly inconsistent. “He’s got something to prove this summer, coming in with a chip on his shoulder,” Brown said. “He’s working on his game hard; he’s working on big-man stuff and guard stuff. He’s definitely put in the work and it’s going to be a good year for him.”
  • Cedi Osman isn’t participating in the Cavaliers’ mini-camp. He’s not on the list of players that the club released, as Eric Woodyard of ESPN tweets. Osman, a Turkish citizen, is apparently still overseas. The Cavs will have 15 players come in, including four G League players — Sir’Dominic Pointer, Marques Bolden, Levi Randolph and Vincent Edwards.

Atkinson, Ham, Udoka, Unseld Have Impressed Bulls

  • The Bulls continue to narrow down their head coaching pool and will likely meet with finalists soon, according to Charania, who hears that Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, and Wes Unseld Jr. are among the candidate who have had strong interviews so far.


Central Notes: White, Casey, Pacers, Cavaliers

Bulls guard Coby White has his sights set on becoming a full-time starter with the franchise next season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.

White, 20, was selected No. 7 overall by the franchise in 2019, impressing onlookers in his rookie campaign this season. He averaged 13.2 points, 2.7 assists and 25.8 minutes per game, coming off the bench in every contest but one. He’s spent significant time in the gym and weight room since the NBA season was postponed due to COVID-19.

“Work out, that’s about it,’’ White said when asked about his recent routine. “I was able to hoop a little bit when I was home, but I’ve been back in Chicago for two or three months. Really, all I can do is come to the gym, work out, kind of doing the same thing every day — one player per basket, get some stuff done in the weight room. Other than that, it’s all it’s really been.’’

White recognizes the importance of staying ready, since Kris Dunn – who started in 32 of 51 games this season – is set to reach restricted free agency. Players were still working out individually as of Friday, according to Cowley, with full intrasquad scrimmages scheduled to begin later this week.

“I think the big thing is just all coming together, getting a feel for each other,’’ White said. “Just getting that team chemistry back. We’ve been away from each other for so long and we haven’t played with each other in so long, so for us to just get back all on the court together it’ll be good for us. And you know, with everything going on in the world, some of us haven’t really played basketball or been down and played five-on-five in so long, so in that aspect it’ll be good. Cause for a lot of us basketball is our therapy.’’

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • The Pistons are eyeing a short route back to winning, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press details. Detroit finished with a 20-46 record this season, suffering from multiple key injuries and setbacks along the way. “We’re not really rebuilding here in Detroit,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “I think our basketball fans deserve a lot. We like to use the word ‘retooling,’ ‘restoring’ as much as ‘rebuilding.’ It doesn’t have to take a long time because if our young guys are making the progress we expect them to make, it shouldn’t be a long-term restoring.”
  • Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files examines what Pacers players are hoping to see from their next head coach. Indiana fired Nate McMillan from his position in August, ending his four-year tenure as head coach of the team. “It’s up to me to step up to the plate and find the right person to lead the locker room again and be creative as a new-age coach,” team president Kevin Pritchard said last month.
  • Kelsey Russo of The Athletic poses a number of questions the Cavaliers hope to answer in the team’s upcoming training camp, including how Dylan Windler is adjusting to playing and whether Collin Sexton‘s game has evolved off the ball. The first day of group training begins on Wednesday, September 23, marking roughly six months since players last played 5-on-5 in Cleveland. Andre Drummond (personal reasons) will miss the team’s camp, according to Russo, while impending free agents Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova also won’t participate.