Even before forward Patrick Williams went down with a possible season-ending wrist injury, coach Billy Donovan knew he was rolling out a smaller team this season.
He was fine with that because he believed the Bulls’ defensive aggressiveness would offset the rebounding disadvantage. In some instances, the rebounding has been a problem. The Bulls were 18th overall in rebounding differential (minus-1.3 per game), but that wasn’t Donovan’s major concern.
He was more focused on the number of fouls his team was committing and if that problem was attributable to the lack of size.
“It’s hard to be really, really good defensively when you’re sending teams to the free-throw line,’’ Donovan said Saturday. “That’s something we’re going to have to solve.
‘‘Some of it is we’re going to have to be more disciplined; some of it is because of size, guys trying to reach or slap when they’re in a tough spot instead of just playing vertical and making a guy make a play.
“There’s also a balance of we’re at our best defensively when we’re physical and we’re scrambling. We’re more active and we’re generating turnovers. So you don’t want to take away our team’s aggressiveness.’’
Donovan believes in-house fixes are available.
At some point, however, that might change, especially with Arturas Karnisovas as vice president of basketball operations.
Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley have shown patience, but they’ve also been aggressive in turning weaknesses into strengths. That was evident in the summer, when the front office almost completely flipped the roster.
Donovan was asked before the game against the Heat if the lack of size could lead to a fix from outside the organization, and he indicated that the front office always is evaluating.
“We have not spoken about that,’’ Donovan said. “My guess is that Arturas, Marc, all those guys are evaluating the team every day and looking at ways that they can help our group.
‘‘With Tony [Bradley] here, we’ve had times where we’ve played a little bit bigger with a backup center, but there are also times with matchups and who we’re going against that it may be better to go a little smaller. Some of the teams we’ve played against have kind of adjusted to us and played a little bit smaller.
“I don’t know if we’ve gotten totally hurt on the boards. I haven’t had those conversations to say, ‘Hey, listen, we’re going to try to do something between now and whenever it may be.’ For me as a coach, [I’m] just working with the guys we have, and those guys have been great to work with, and for the most part, they’ve pretty much kept themselves ready.’’
Donovan has taken a very proactive approach in getting his players to stop arguing and dwelling on perceived bad calls by the officials. The Bulls have had some issues with foul calls, and Donovan wants it to stop.
“I think, in general, we’ve got to be able to move to the next thing,’’ Donovan said. “I’ve always felt that when there’s a dead ball and free throws are being taken, if you want to walk over to an official and have a conversation, that’s fine. But when the ball’s being inbounded, you’ve got to move on to the next play. Revisit that at another time.’’