Bulls coach Billy Donovan is not against riding out latest lineup change
Daniel Theis was inserted into the starting lineup for Thad Young on Friday, and as long as Donovan sees production, especially from Young with the second unit, he’s willing to stay the course with this group.
There’s a method behind the madness of the Bulls’ latest lineup reshuffle.
And if this lineup doesn’t work during the next few games, coach Billy Donovan won’t be afraid to put another new look out there.
With guard Zach LaVine in the NBA’s health and safety protocol after testing positive for the coronavirus, Donovan switched up his big men Friday against the Grizzlies, opting to start Daniel Theis and move Thad Young to the bench.
He explained why before the Bulls’ game Saturday against the Cavaliers and made it clear it was more about what Young brought to the second unit than some kind of demotion.
‘‘Some of our guys that are obviously still here, that were here as part of the team before the trade, those guys are comfortable with Thad,’’ Donovan said, referring to players such as Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Denzel Valentine. ‘‘And I think it allows him to be really productive.
‘‘Certainly, there has to be some times where [Young] and [Daniel] Theis or he and [Nikola Vucevic] are going to have to play together, but it was really to try and open up some things for Thad because I think he’s played so well for us this year and has been such a catalyst and facilitator for us offensively.’’
The move also added some defense to the starting lineup, especially in terms of rim protection, which is Theis’ specialty.
When it will get interesting is when LaVine returns. Will Donovan shuffle the starting lineup yet again? He seemed intent on giving this frontcourt lineup a look with LaVine, but don’t bet against him making a change.
‘‘I think with Zach being out, it made sense to do that,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I’m not opposed to doing it when Zach does come back just to see what it looks like, but I think all of those big guys are going to have to play with each other and learn how to play with each other.’’
The Theis dilemma
The Bulls acquired Theis from the Celtics knowing he is in his walk year, but Donovan made it clear they have longer-term hopes for him.
While Donovan said he hasn’t had specific conversations with executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas about re-signing Theis, he knew enough about the situation to comment on it.
‘‘We didn’t get into maybe that depth of conversation, but I would say in our conversations, there’s no question that myself and Arturas and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] really like him as a player,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘So I would think that our hope would be a long-term possibility.
‘‘But with free agency coming up and guys having the opportunity to make their own decisions, I understand that. But he’s someone we really like a lot and feel like could be somebody that could be really good for us going forward.’’
Donovan said he has stayed in contact with LaVine, who is in quarantine, and offered up an optimistic report on where he is mentally.
‘‘He actually is doing well,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Obviously, he’s disappointed. I’ve checked on him more because I think it’s always hard for a player when you get alienated from the team like this, and then there’s no interaction at all and you’re not traveling and you’re not with us in the locker room and you’re not with us in the facility. It’s hard. You’re just by yourself, and that can be hard.’’