Billy Donovan hiring another sign these aren’t the same old Bulls
Executive Arturas Karnisovas had to sell Donovan on something larger than what’s in the locker room right now, giving Bulls fans something real to dream about.
The ‘‘rebuild’’ label suddenly seems obsolete for the Bulls.
Sure, many of the players in their locker room are unproven. But the hiring of Billy Donovan as their coach is evidence that something bigger is going on in the offices of the Advocate Center.
Something a tortured fan base should start embracing. Something that even forced guard Zach LaVine to interrupt a live gaming stream of Call of Duty to note.
‘‘Oh, damn, we got Billy Donovan as our next coach,’’ LaVine blurted out on Facebook Gaming from his hotel room Tuesday. ‘‘I swear . . . [the news] just came out. Yeah, wow, that will be good.’’
LaVine then complained about his online soldier ‘‘glitching again.’’ That was appropriate, considering the Bulls have been glitching since they traded Jimmy Butler in 2017 and began their rebuild.
So what does the hiring of Donovan change? A lot.
Yes, it gives the Bulls a proven winner, but there is evidence it’s much bigger than that.
Donovan’s contract had run its course when the Thunder were eliminated from the playoff bubble in the first round. While both sides seemed committed to each other on the surface, ownership let Donovan know it planned to blow up the roster and go young. Donovan didn’t like that, so it led to a mutual parting of ways.
But why would he walk away from a franchise beginning a rebuild to join one that seems stuck in the mud of the same process?
‘‘Only two jobs worse than [the Bulls’ coaching job]: the captain of the Titanic and my fitness coach,’’ Hall of Famer Charles Barkley declared on TNT.
That might sound harsh, but it hasn’t been untrue — at least until now.
For Donovan — who could have sat out a year and waited for a better offer from another franchise — to meet with executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and so quickly accept the position indicates Karnisovas shared such a promising vision that Donovan couldn’t say no.
That should have Bulls fans excited.
Let’s look at what has happened since the Bulls played their last game in March:
Chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf hired Karnisovas to run basketball operations (a move that was widely applauded), then gave him the authority to fire longtime general manager Gar Forman and replace him with highly regarded up-and-comer Marc Eversley. Karnisovas then fired coach Jim Boylen and began interviewing some promising assistants to fill the vacancy, only to pivot and get a deal done when Donovan hit the market.
It’s so different from the way the Bulls had been conducting business under executive-turned-consultant John Paxson and Forman.
So what exactly did Karnisovas tell Donovan? We’ll have to wait and see, but all signs point to Karnisovas being aggressive in trying to land a superstar in a trade or in preparing to clear the decks for the superstar free-agent class of 2021.
Donovan likely wouldn’t have come aboard for anything less than that sort of go-big-or-go-home attitude.
How big? Is trading LaVine, forward Lauri Markkanen and the No. 4 pick of the draft in November to the Bucks for superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the question?
Probably, but Karnisovas has given Bulls fans the ability to dream. And that’s not a feeling they’ve had since Tom Thibodeau was pushed out the door in 2015.