Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants his players out of the excuse business
The situation going into the game against the Bucks on Friday night was less than ideal, but Donovan and the new regime are trying to instill a championship level of play into this roster. And it’s not up for debate.
It was a 30-point loss with built-in excuses across the board: a short-handed roster, a brutal part of the schedule, the road.
But if you’re a Bull, quickly erase those justifications from your mind or at least keep them to yourself.
The days of making excuses are over. Coach Billy Donovan expressed that clearly after the 126-96 loss Friday night in Milwaukee, acknowledging that the circumstances surrounding the game were less than ideal but making sure his players understood that professionals overcome adverse situations.
There were many players Donovan could’ve singled out, but he pulled no punches with the backcourt, which has to make better decisions for the offense to work.
“[Coby White] and Zach [LaVine] had nine turnovers collectively, but they’re the ones who have to be the driving force behind the identity that we need to play with, and we did not play to that identity,’’ Donovan said. “It’s five guys on the court doing it together, but a big part of that is the guys who have the ball in their hands as they start to make decisions and get the ball up the floor quickly and get us into things.
‘‘We’ve got to be able to do that and sustain that for a period of time. I thought collectively we were unable to do that.
“Guys are going to miss shots in the course of games, which is just the reality of it, but we have to play to an identity, and we didn’t play that way at all, and that was the disappointing part of it.’’
It wasn’t the only disappointment, but it definitely stood out. Since training camp, Donovan has emphasized the importance of White and LaVine this season. The duo has had its moments — look no further than the back-to-back victories in Washington — but the inconsistency is inexcusable.
The new front office has insisted that the players need to understand championship-level basketball, and Donovan’s responsibility is to find out which players can do that and which players can’t.
At the end of the season, the can’ts could very well be elsewhere.
“OK, here’s a group of guys who went out there and played [Friday], whether you want to say we were undermanned or not, we can still do things at what I would consider a very high level,’’ Donovan said. “And I would say to these guys that we need to do things at a championship level.
‘‘That, to me, was not at a championship level. Not from the standpoint that we lost the game, but more from the standpoint of how we need to play. And we have got to build up the endurance and the stamina and the discipline to be able to do that.’’
White specifically needs to be better at meeting the goals this staff requires of him.
On nights when he’s not shooting well --— such as the 4-for-13 clunker against the Bucks — he has to make better passes and take care of the ball. Three assists and four turnovers aren’t going to get it done.
He’s only in his second season, but even White knows he can’t hide from the expectations.
“We didn’t stick to our identity,’’ White said. “Our identity is moving the ball, making the extra pass, getting energy with the ball on the offensive end.
‘‘[The Bucks are] tough defensively, but it’s no excuse. Three games in four nights, whatever, no excuse. We’re professionals. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why we get paid to do what we do.’’