Billy Donovan

Central Notes: Trent, LaVine, Donovan, Harris, Holland

Gary Trent Jr. had multiyear offers worth approximately the taxpayer portion of the mid-level exception ($5.2MM) on the table in free agency, league sources tell Blake Murphy of However, the 25-year-old swingman ultimately decided to accept a one-year, minimum-salary offer from the Bucks in order to reunite with former teammate Damian Lillard and contend for a title in Milwaukee.

Bucks head coach Doc Rivers, who had a preexisting relationship with Trent through his father (Gary Trent Sr.), flew to Miami earlier this month to help recruit the free agent wing to Milwaukee, according to Jamal Collier of

While Trent’s three-point numbers last season (2.5 per game on 39.3% shooting) fell a little shy of Malik Beasley‘s marks (2.8 makes on 41.3% shooting), Eric Nehm of The Athletic believes there’s reason to believe the newcomer can boost those stats even further when sharing the floor with stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

As Nehm writes, Trent also isn’t just a catch-and-shoot player — he has the ability to put the ball on the floor a little and attack closeouts on offense. And while he’s not the most consistent defender, Trent has had his moments on that end of the floor and should benefit from having Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez protecting the rim behind him.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • A source who spoke to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times referred to DeMar DeRozan as someone who has acted as a “buffer” between Bulls head coach Billy Donovan and star guard Zach LaVine for the past three seasons. According to that source, with DeRozan no longer around, the team would risk a “dysfunctional” locker room next season if it brings back LaVine.
  • After signing a two-year, $52MM contract with the Pistons earlier this month, veteran forward Tobias Harris said his biggest goal for the coming season is to “be the best leader I can be for this group” and trying to help his younger teammates reach their full potential, per Keith Langlois of “I’m going into year 14,” Harris said on Tuesday’s Summer League broadcast on NBA TV. “I’ve had a lot of experience in this league and one of the most satisfying things is seeing the young guys come up for us to figure out how good we can be as a group and have the best type of team chemistry and flow for us.”
  • Speaking to Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Pistons rookie Ron Holland discussed his Summer League experience, his goals for his rookie season, and the NBA players he wants to model his game after (including Mikal Bridges and Jaylen Brown). Meanwhile, Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press takes a look at what Holland has shown in his Summer League games so far, noting that the 19-year-old’s impressive tools and his room for growth have both been on display.

Central Notes: Bulls, Donovan, Allen, Middleton

This year’s All-NBA voting offered another reminder of the depressing state the Bulls find themselves in, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. DeMar DeRozan, who received one third-team vote, was the only Bulls player mentioned on any of the 99 ballots. That comes after not having an All-Star and missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised changes following last month’s loss in the play-in tournament. The front office will reportedly scour the trade market in another attempt to find a taker for Zach LaVine, but Johnson notes that there were more rumors about LaVine at the 2023 draft combine than this year’s version.

If nobody is willing to take on the $139MM that LaVine is owed over the next three seasons, Johnson sees sign-and-trades involving DeRozan and fellow free agent Patrick Williams as the best chances for immediate improvement, along with a potential Lonzo Ball comeback. However, Karnisovas has already stated that he hopes to re-sign both DeRozan and Williams this summer.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The recent addition of former Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to Billy Donovan‘s staff doesn’t mean the Bulls‘ coach is in danger of losing his job, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley states that Donovan is “as safe as he has been since the day he was hired,” noting that Karnisovas expressed support for him after the season ended.
  • The Cavaliers may give serious consideration to breaking up their big-man tandem of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen this summer, suggests Chris Fedor of (subscriber only). The team has believed Mobley would eventually develop into a full-time center since he was drafted in 2021, according to Fedor, who adds that the two big men often appear to be in each other’s way on offense. Fedor believes the Cavs might be ready to part with Allen and maybe Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland for an upgrade at the wing.
  • The Bucks only got minimal financial benefit from Khris Middleton missing out on a combined $2.1MM in bonuses tied to games played and the team’s success in the playoffs, Jim Owczarski of the Journal Sentinel states in a mailbag column. Milwaukee will have a slightly lower tax bill, but all bonuses count in determining the new salary aprons, even if they’re not earned, so the Bucks still project as a second apron team for next season.

Changes Coming To Billy Donovan’s Bulls Staff

Veteran Bulls assistant coach Chris Fleming won’t return next season as part of Billy Donovan‘s staff, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that assistant Maurice Cheeks also won’t be back in a full-time role on the bench.

Confirming Charania’s reporting, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago says that Cheeks is expected to have a position elsewhere in the organization. That decision was solely Cheeks’, Johnson adds.

In other Bulls coaching news, second-row assistant John Bryant is expected to move to the front of the bench for the 2024/25 season, according to Johnson, who notes that Josh Longstaff will be in the mix to become Donovan’s new lead assistant. Longstaff isn’t the only candidate receiving consideration for that role, however, per Johnson.

Fleming, formerly an assistant in Denver and Brooklyn, was the lone assistant on the Bulls’ staff who held that role prior to Donovan’s arrival in 2020. Fleming joined the team in 2019 after stints in Denver (2015-16) and Brooklyn (2016-19).

Cheeks was hired by the Bulls along with Donovan in 2020. The former All-Star guard has had head coaching stints with the Trail Blazers, Sixers, and Pistons and worked for several years as an assistant in Oklahoma City.

Arturas Karnisovas Admits Changes Are Necessary In Chicago

After watching his team get eliminated in the play-in round for the second straight season, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised that changes are coming, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Addressing reporters today in the wake of Friday’s loss at Miami, Karnisovas sounded ready for a major roster shake-up.

“I’ve said numerous times today: This group, something doesn’t work. I have to find ways to find a group that’s going to make improvements. We’ve done it for a couple years now and it hasn’t worked,” Karnisovas said. “Everything is on the table. I am going to look at totality of the group. This group hasn’t worked. There’s a lot of great things in certain individual players and a lot of young guys who took a step forward and it’s positive. But in totality as a group, it didn’t work. So I’m going to have to find these answers in offseason.”

Presumably that will start with Zach LaVine, whom the team tried to move last fall before injuries derailed his season. Multiple outlets have reported that Karnisovas will make another attempt this summer to find a taker for LaVine, who has three years and about $138MM left on his contract, including a nearly $49MM player option for 2026/27.

Although Karnisovas emphasized the need for change at today’s press conference, Johnson states that he repeated his commitment to re-sign free agents DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams. A source tells Johnson that the team recently offered DeRozan a two-year extension in the neighborhood of $40MM per season. DeRozan reportedly wants a longer deal, but Johnson suggests that could just be a negotiating tactic.

“DeMar’s been great for us for three years,” Karnisovas said. “He’s been invested in the city of Chicago and has been really great to our young guys. So both sides are interested in continuing and we’ll see what happens in free agency.”

Johnson notes that giving new contracts to DeRozan and Williams without trading LaVine means the Bulls would start next season in luxury tax territory. Karnisovas expressed a willingness to pay the tax, but only for a contender, which heightens the need to move LaVine’s contract.

“My approach looking at the luxury tax is if you can prove that your team is going to be in the top four, you go in the luxury tax,” he said. “It just makes no sense to be in play-in if you’re going to be in the luxury tax. As long as I can put a team together that is going to be competing top four in the East, that’s when you start look at retaining guys and go in the luxury tax.” 

Karnisovas also addressed the status of Lonzo Ball, saying the organization will monitor his progress during the offseason, but he’s had no setbacks so far in his latest attempt to return from knee issues that have sidelined him since January of 2022. While Karnisovas didn’t address the possibility, Johnson points out that the Bulls stand to receive $21MM in cap relief if Ball can’t return and an independent doctor declares the injury to be career-ending.

Karnisovas said there’s no plan to replace coach head coach Billy Donovan, who is fresh off an extension and recently stated that he’s not interested in returning to college coaching when his name was floated as a possibility for Kentucky. Although Karnisovas remains loyal to Donovan, Johnson speculates there could be some changes to his staff.

“I like what Billy has done here the last four years. Billy is someone you build a program with,” Karnisovas said. “He’s a very good coach and even a better human being. We established a winning expectation, we defined a profile for the Bulls player and we put an emphasis on player development. It is also on me to facilitate Billy with the resources he needs to build a team that can be successful consistently.”

Bulls Notes: Self-Induced Errors, Drummond, Dosunmu, More

The Bulls lost to the Knicks on Tuesday in disappointing fashion, making a series of self-induced errors, including Torrey Craig attempting to throw an alley-oop to himself before getting knocked down by teammate Andre Drummond, who thought the pass off the backboard was intended for him. The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry sees that play as a microcosm of Chicago’s season: style over substance.

To me, it was just really disappointing,” coach Billy Donovan said. “You’re down by (nine points). There were a lot of self-induced things that I thought we contributed to. Not only that play but other plays that weren’t as loud as that. But that play was disappointing to me.

The Bulls are locked into the play-in tournament but clinched home-court advantage in the No. 9 vs. 10 game against the Hawks by defeating the Pistons on Thursday.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Drummond left Tuesday’s game with a badly turned left ankle. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Drummond had to be taken to the training room in a wheelchair and Donovan said his ankle was very swollen. On Thursday, Donovan said Drummond is using a motorized scooter because of weight-bearing issues regarding the swelling in his ankle, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.
  • Ayo Dosunmu missed Tuesday’s game with an injured quad, Cowley adds in the same piece. “I don’t know how long it will or will not be because I think he felt OK after the game [Sunday] in Orlando,” Donovan said. “I think after he felt a little better, it just hasn’t progressed.” According to Johnson, Dosunmu’s deep thigh contusion is giving him issues with being able to contract his quad muscle.
  • In case you missed it, Kentucky is reportedly finalizing a deal to hire Mark Pope of BYU as their next head coach. But if there were any doubts, Donovan reaffirmed his commitment to the Bulls on Tuesday and shot down any rumors of him potentially leaving for the college ranks, ESPN’s Jamal Collier writes.
  • With the Bulls headed for the play-in and potentially out of the playoffs in the coming weeks, Cowley opines that general manager Arturas Karnisovas and the Bulls should change their philosophy when it comes to this roster. Cowley believes this version of the team has reached its peak and the front office should consider trading some of its star players and entering a rebuild.

Stein’s Latest: Bickerstaff, Mitchell, Kidd, Stone, Donovan

Pressure is mounting on the Cavaliers, who have stumbled to an 11-16 record after the All-Star break after once sitting at 36-17, NBA insider Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack post. While an 18-2 record spanning through December and January improved coach J.B. Bickerstaff‘s standing within the organization, he may be on the hot seat following this disappointing stretch of games.

As Stein writes, Bickerstaff is still dealing with the fallout from losing to the Knicks in the first round of last year’s playoffs in just five games. Frustration is growing in Cleveland after last season’s playoffs and this season’s lackluster recent stretch, according to Stein.

The Cavaliers as a whole are feeling pressure, given the need to sign Donovan Mitchell to a contract extension this offseason. Mitchell is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract next year if there’s no extension and there’s a “growing belief” from rival teams that the Cavs might be forced to trade their superstar if the two sides can’t agree to an extension, Stein writes.

The Cavaliers paid a hefty price to bring in Mitchell in 2022, sending out Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton and multiple first-round picks for the All-Star guard.

We have more from Stein:

  • The Mavericks are 16-2 since they inserted Daniel Gafford and Derrick Jones Jr. into the starting lineup, and have officially secured their second 50-win season since Jason Kidd took over as head coach in 2021. An offseason extension for Kidd seems likely, according to Stein.
  • Likewise, the Rockets‘ strong play in the second half of their season means general manager Rafael Stone may also earn a contract extension, Stein writes. The Rockets are hovering around the .500 mark after winning just 22 games last season. The Ime Udoka hiring and the additions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks are among the reasons for Houston’s impressive season, which were all accomplished without sacrificing any of its core pieces. Still, future decisions regarding whether the team will continue to build around Alperen Sengun and Jalen Green or trade for a higher-profile star are percolating, per Stein.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan‘s name was thrown around in regard to the newly opened Kentucky coaching job, but Stein expressed skepticism about the chances of him moving back down to the college ranks, where he most notably coached at Florida from 1996-2015. It looks like Stein’s skepticism was warranted, as Kentucky is reportedly targeting BYU’s Mark Pope to be its next head coach, meaning Donovan will stay with the Bulls, tweets NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson.

Central Notes: Donovan, DeRozan, Bucks, Allen

John Calipari‘s decision to leave Kentucky for Arkansas spawned rumors that the Wildcats will make a run at Bulls head coach Billy Donovan. However, it would be a complicated process if he had any interest in returning to the college ranks, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes.

Donovan is under contract for two more years with the Bulls, and he’s held in high regard by not only management but ownership, says Johnson. Donovan, who won back-to-back championships at Florida, has often talked about how much he enjoys coaching in the NBA.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times also casts doubt on the idea of Donovan taking the Kentucky job. A source told him on Tuesday that there has been no communication between the school and the Bulls’ head coach.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are locked into the 9-10 play-in tournament matchup with the Hawks but DeMar DeRozan believes his team needs to finish strong, Cowley writes. “Yeah, but we’re coming to a point where we can’t play those (down) games, and we’ve got to have that mentality,” DeRozan said. “We can’t switch it on. It’s do or die.” The Bulls play at home against the Knicks tonight, then finish up with a road trip to Detroit, Washington and New York.
  • Despite their addition of Damian Lillard prior to the season, the Bucks have consistently looked like a team that’s not having any fun, Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opines. Now they’re stumbling toward the regular season finish line, with the stress of the postseason looming. “Adversity builds character; we have to embrace it,” forward Jae Crowder said. “We can’t shy away from the fact that we just lost six of the last seven. It’s tough days, but at the same time, this is how you build team character. If we come out of this thing on the other side, we’ll be a better group going into the playoffs.”
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen believes more All-Star honors will come to him down the road after he didn’t make the team this season, he told Mark Medina of “The guys that got in definitely deserve it,” he said. “Don’t get that wrong. My time will come.”

Central Notes: Bucks, Middleton, Cavaliers, Donovan, Pistons

Bucks coach Doc Rivers responded to the team’s late-season swoon by holding a film session on Saturday, according to Eric Nehm and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The meeting involved the team’s nine veteran rotation players — Giannis AntetokounmpoDamian LillardKhris MiddletonBrook Lopez, Malik Beasley, Bobby PortisPatrick Beverley, Pat Connaughton and Jae Crowder — and each of them was given the opportunity to share his perspective on the team’s recent slide and offer suggestions on how to address it.

“It’s only the start of these tough and necessary conversations,” a source told Nehm and Charania.

While the session may have cleared the air, it didn’t help Milwaukee end its slump as the Bucks fell to New York on Sunday while getting outscored 72-48 in the second half. Although they remain in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks are now just one game ahead of the Magic and Knicks and a game-and-half up on the Cavaliers, as home court advantage in the first round is no longer a guarantee.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Middleton’s bad luck with injuries continued Sunday as he had to leave the game after being accidentally struck in the face by Donte DiVincenzo, Nehm and Charania add. Rivers said Middleton had to make an emergency trip to the dentist, which is why he didn’t return to the game. “You just feel bad for him. The guy can’t catch a break,” the Bucks‘ head coach said. “I mean, what are the odds you go into a game, ‘OK, tonight, it will be my tooth gets knocked out.’ He’s having one of those seasons right now, but that’s OK because it can all turn for him. I thought he came with great spirit tonight, too, so just tough luck.”
  • The Cavaliers had a disastrous end to their five-game Western swing as they let a 26-point lead slip away in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland went 1-4 on the trip and returns home in fifth place in the East. “Just a very disappointing loss,” said Isaac Okoro, who was able to return after missing four games with pain in his big toe. “Think we all know right now we need wins. Wanted this one bad.”
  • Head coach Billy Donovan admits that the Bulls aren’t having the type of season he expected, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is just a game ahead of Atlanta for ninth place in the battle to host next week’s play-in game between the two teams. “I certainly didn’t come here [when I was hired in 2020] to say, ‘Hey, listen, let’s be a play-in team,’” Donovan said. “When I sat down first with [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] about this, it was to try and build something. I still feel like we’re building something, but I don’t think anyone is happy with where we’re at.’’
  • James L. Edwards of The Athletic ranks the Pistons‘ best assets heading into the offseason. Not surprisingly, Cade Cunningham tops the list, with this year’s first-round pick coming in second, followed by Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey.

Central Notes: Giannis, Gallinari, Pistons, Haliburton

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said former coach Adrian Griffin was “figuring things out” before the team fired him last month, but he’s enjoying the security of having Doc Rivers in charge, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Antetokounmpo felt like he had to become a more vocal locker room leader earlier in the season with a first-time head coach running the team. That responsibility has eased, and Antetokounmpo expressed full confidence in Rivers’ ability to get the team ready for the postseason.

“We have to keep on evolving. We don’t have to change our identity,” he said. “Of course, we gotta be stronger. We gotta be tougher. I have to play better. I have to see the game better. But we have to keep on evolving. We have to add coach Doc’s philosophy with what has been working and hopefully can create a great mix for the next 25 games that we have and compete in the playoffs.”

Another major difference for Milwaukee will be the presence of Damian Lillard, a supreme scorer with the ability to take over playoff games. Antetokounmpo and Lillard had discussions about the direction of the season while they were in Indianapolis for All-Star Weekend, Nehm adds.

“I am his biggest fan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Good or bad, I ride with Dame until the f—ing end. I ride with Dame. Like I’ve been saying this over and over again. This. Is. His. Team. Down the stretch, he’s going to get the ball. There’s nothing else that we will do. I don’t know how else to put it. I don’t know what else to say. But at the end of the day, he has to believe it too.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Coach Billy Donovan talked to Danilo Gallinari about joining the Bulls before he opted to sign with Milwaukee, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan, who coached Gallinari during the 2019/20 season in Oklahoma City, said the veteran forward was looking for a situation with a greater opportunity for playing time.
  • Pistons coach Monty Williams said winning as many games as possible will be the priority for the rest of the season, tweets Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “I’m not going to be throwing certain combinations on the floor just to see how they look,” Williams said. “We’re done with that … we’ll be competing.”
  • Tyrese Haliburton had been listed as questionable with a hamstring issue for every game since January 30, but he’s not on the Pacers‘ injury report for Thursday’s contest with Detroit, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Aaron Nesmith will miss the game with a sprained right ankle, while Jalen Smith is questionable due to back spasms.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Drummond, Donovan, Caruso, Jackson

The Bulls are exploring potential trade packages with the Pistons for shooting guard Zach LaVine, confirms K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Sources inform Johnson that, as has been previously reported, Detroit is hoping to hold on to what the team sees as its four core players in a theoretical deal: point guard Cade Cunningham, shooting guard Jaden Ivey, rookie forward Ausar Thompson, and center Jalen Duren.

Assuming the Pistons remain firm on this point, veteran power forward Bojan Bogdanovic and future draft equity are expected to be priorities from the Chicago side. while some configuration of veteran players like Isaiah Stewart, Joe Harris, Monte Morris, and Mike Muscala could also be involved. Johnson notes that, even if a deal doesn’t get done by the NBA’s February 8 trade deadline, it appears likely LaVine will eventually be moved while on his current contract.

Johnson adds that reserve center Andre Drummond has drawn interest from several clubs as the NBA’s deadline nears.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan‘s job is currently safe in Chicago, but he’s aware his status could become tenuous, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. “You always have to be grateful each and every day to [coach],” Donovan said. “I drive home and get off the interstate, and there’s people standing out there on the street asking for money or people sleeping in front of police precincts. It’s so easy not to be grateful for the things you have and the opportunity you have, and I always try and keep that in perspective. I get a chance every day to do something I love. I try and view it that way.”
  • All-Defensive Bulls wing Alex Caruso is making an effort to not sacrifice his body quite as much as he has in the past, Cowley writes in a separate piece. ‘‘I’ve intentionally missed a couple of charges this year and moved out of the way because I’m realizing that I’ve got to take care of my body, and you’ve got to be a little bit selfish at times to do that,’’ Caruso said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the NBA is all about efficiency… That’s what I’ve learned, and I’m kind of finding that middle gear to where I don’t need to play as hard as I can every single minute.”
  • Six-time championship-winning former Bulls head coach Phil Jackson recently visited the team for a player meeting and an extensive 90-minute chat with Donovan and his staff, Cowley adds. ‘‘It should inspire you,’’ guard Coby White said of meeting Jackson. ‘‘If you love the game of basketball, it should inspire you. He’s a legend, a Hall of Fame coach, if not the best coach of all time. So for us, it should motivate us as a unit and a team to grow. And he gave us some insight on our team.”