Bulls ‘partnership’ and Lauri Markkanen unable to reach an agreement
The Monday deadline came and went for players in their rookie contracts to reach an extension. For Markkanen, it means he’ll be a restricted free agent next offseason. For the Bulls, it means coach and front office are in sync when evaluating the roster.
The word ‘‘partner’’ was thrown around several times during coach Billy Donovan’s introductory Zoom news conference.
It was the hook the Bulls’ front office sold Donovan on.
He obviously was in charge of the X’s and O’s, but his job encompassed more than that.
“I wanted to be in a situation where everybody is rowing the boat in the same direction, everybody is pulling together, everybody is working for the same cause, there’s a lot of really good dialogue and communication, and I think as a coach, you are a part of it,’’ Donovan said in September. “You’re a part of it all the way through from top to bottom, and I think [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] was looking for that, looking to partner with somebody as a coach to try to continue to develop and build the program.’’
The early stages of this project have shown that the development process already has started — it was evident even in meaningless exhibition games — but there’s still a lot of work to be done as the regular season begins Wednesday against the Hawks at the United Center. And distinguishing the building blocks from the expendable players is vital.
A source said the negotiations between Lauri Markkanen and the Bulls on a contract extension never got close as the deadline expired Monday. That doesn’t mean the “partnership’’ has made a final decision on Markkanen.
If anything, Donovan and Co. have simply put the matter on hold, allowing Markkanen to make a case for himself and set his market price as a restricted free agent.
It’s very good business in very uncertain times.
Thad Young is sidelined as he recovers from an infection in his left leg, Tomas Satoransky hasn’t practiced since last week and is likely quarantining in some fashion according to protocol, Garrett Temple just finished his self-isolation because of COVID-19 and Denzel Valentine (hamstring) has practiced fully twice.
With a shortened training camp, only four preseason games and no offseason for players and coaches to get acclimated to a new scheme, it just wasn’t in the cards to go out on that limb for Markkanen, who took a step back last season.
So what will Donovan’s role be in his “partnership’’ with the front office in evaluating players? He was very transparent about the dynamic recently, explaining how the relationship with Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley works.
“The first layer is during the course of a season, I know for myself, I don’t have enough knowledge on the college guys,’’ Donovan said. “Marc and Arturas and the staff, they’re going to be watching games all year long, and all of a sudden, our season ends, the college season is over with, they throw a few guys in front of me that I watch, I know nothing about the player.
‘‘What’s important to me is the makeup of the player you’re bringing in. Does he have a feel of how to play, does he have a great work ethic, is he a good team guy, is he unselfish, is he going to be able to handle the ups and downs?’’
Donovan expects to be heard during free agency, when the discussions center around proven players in the league. And that undoubtedly includes his own players.
“I feel like I’ve got a better feeling for guys in the league because you’re preparing for them every game,’’ Donovan said.