Bulls coach Billy Donovan shoots straight from the hip — aiming for the moon
Less than 24 hours after a 22-point meltdown cost the Bulls a victory in Oklahoma City, Donovan discussed the makeup of his roster and the steps the players need to take to understand winning.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan has a secret: He would like to visit the moon.
‘‘I really would,’’ he said.
There’s one problem, however.
‘‘I have no interest in doing what it takes to become an astronaut,’’ Donovan said on a video conference Saturday from Dallas, where the Bulls will play the Mavericks on Sunday.
Maybe it was the slap in the face of suffering one of the more embarrassing losses he has endured in quite some time that had Donovan offering up some deep thoughts.
Maybe it was just life in lockdown, thanks to the NBA’s strict coronavirus protocols.
Or maybe Donovan was making a point to sum up the state of the 4-8 Bulls and the steps they still have to take to get back to where they want to be.
Bet on the latter.
‘So, like, ‘I want to win!’ ‘OK, great. Are you really willing to do what goes into winning?’ ’’ Donovan continued. ‘‘And what goes into this is what I think they’re trying to learn right now. Now, as we go through this process, I have not seen anything from them that is giving me the indication that they’re not willing to put in the work.
‘‘To be honest, the concentration is a major problem. We have to be able to concentrate in the game. I know things are happening quickly and you don’t want guys over-thinking, but we don’t concentrate. We have these spells for three, four and five minutes where we lose concentration and focus, and we’ve got to be able to do a better job of that.’’
Donovan offered his thoughts less than 24 hours after the Bulls blew a 22-point lead in the second half and lost in overtime Friday to the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
All of it can be lumped into one question: Does this core group have what it takes to lift the Bulls to the highest level?
The fact is, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White never got out of the Sweet 16 in their one-and-done college seasons. It also has been well-documented that LaVine (in his seventh season) and Markkanen (in his fourth) never even have sniffed the playoffs.
Is it coincidence that the core of the Bulls’ rebuild continues to fail in high-pressure moments? Tough to say. What Donovan would say, however, is that winning is taught and that some players are more equipped to learn it than others.
Donovan would know, considering he coached a Florida team that won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007, led by Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah, a player Bulls fans became very familiar with.
‘‘There was a substance to those guys competitively; there was a fearlessness,’’ Donovan said of that group. ‘‘I’m not saying this about our [current] group, but I’ve seen this: Sometimes people view competition as a threat, and other times people view competition as a challenge. The one thing competition does is it allows you to learn more about yourself and allows you to grow.
‘‘Sometimes people look at competition as a threat, and they can get fearful and pull back and not want to throw themselves in the fray of it. Those [Florida players] . . . they threw themselves into the fray of it. They took that on, and they were incredibly competitive. Winning, to them, was the end-all, be-all. I do think the group here wants to win, but they’re going to have to take . . . small, incremental steps of finding out how important winning really is.’’
Donovan’s hope is that he can help these Bulls get to that point.
Moon landings will have to wait.