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‘Accountability’ finally means something with this Bulls franchise

The new regime preached it when it took over, and Billy Donovan and the coaching staff have continued pounding that message home with the players. With a trip out west, however, could “accountability” take a hit if things go wrong?

“We’re gonna find out a little bit more about ourselves every time we play,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
“We’re gonna find out a little bit more about ourselves every time we play,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
Rob Carr/Pool Photo via AP

During the last five years, the word “accountability’’ was tossed around superficially at the Advocate Center.

It was often uttered but seldom practiced.

If there’s one aspect of the Bulls that has changed under the new regime, it’s that there’s some heft behind such words, and people are held to them.

The coaching staff has emphasized that standard, and the players have embraced it. But does that accountability travel west? It had better.

The Bulls flew to Portland on Monday to face the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. They play the Kings on Wednesday, then the Lakers and Clippers to end their West Coast swing.

For a team that has enjoyed some good moments during a 3-4 start, one bad week can be a setback.

“Yeah, our schedule is really, really hard,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re gonna find out a little bit more about ourselves every time we play. The unfortunate part for us has been the fact that our roster has been so inconsistent in terms of players being available. And hopefully there will be a point where we get everybody back, and we’ll have to fit people back in again.’’

Not anytime soon, however, and probably not on this trip.

Chandler Hutchison and Tomas Satoransky tested positive for the coronavirus last week, and Lauri Markkanen and Ryan Arcidiacono are out because of contact tracing.

Garrett Temple and Thad Young are still getting their legs under them after being on the shelf during training camp and into the start of the season, leaving Donovan to hand heavy reserve minutes to Daniel Gafford and Denzel Valentine, seemingly playing rotation musical chairs.

There’s a chance Markkanen and Arcidiacono will be ready to go at the end of the trip, possibly rejoining the team in Los Angeles. Then the rotation puzzle starts all over again.

“When you lose Lauri and Sato, it takes a little bit of an adjustment period to figure out who’s playing what spots and what times and rotations,’’ Donovan said. “And then those guys end up coming back, and you’re back to square one of integrating those guys, trying to get those guys ready to compete and play.

‘‘It will be a very challenging time until we can get everybody on our roster together on a consistent basis.

“I give our guys a lot of credit with myself and the staff being new. [We’re] trying to put in different things on offense and defense and terminology with a very limited training camp and lead-up to the season. No fans. Missing players.

‘‘These guys have really worked hard and have really tried to stay engaged. They have tried to improve, and I really, really appreciate that from all of them.’’

He appreciates but also expects.

Donovan has insisted that as much as has been thrown at them, the players are professionals, and the difficult circumstances come with the territory at this level.

“Some of the best teams are in the West,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. “If you want to be a really good team, you gotta be ready to play these guys. We should be excited to go and show what we have against these teams and be ready.

“From an accountability standpoint, everybody has to look at themselves first, figure out what I can do better, whether I take criticism — whether it’s by another player or by a coach — and move forward from that. Guys have to [be accountable] for their actions, good or bad.’’