Bulls coach Billy Donovan remains perfectly imperfect for flawed roster
The old coaching staff made many mistakes with the roster last season, but Donovan showed Sunday that the key for this group will remain lineup flexibility.
The Bulls’ new-look starting lineup has earned an encore, at least for the time being.
Billy Donovan’s latest move is another reminder that his strength as a coach for this team is that he remains perfectly imperfect.
“My intention with the group has always been to try to help them, put them in the best position to win,’’ Donovan said. “Am I perfect? No. Am I going to make mistakes? Absolutely. Have I made plenty of mistakes already? Yes, absolutely. But I want them to know that my intention is to help them. In looking at film and looking at some of the numbers, you have to be prepared as a coach to help the group as best you can.’’
And this is a group that needs help.
One of the biggest failures of the old regime and coaching staff was their reluctance to be flexible with a flawed collection of talent. Pride got in the way of benching young players far too often, but the biggest sin was an inability to fashion offensive and defensive systems around players’ strengths.
The finger of blame gets pointed at former coach Jim Boylen, but he was in thrall to what the analytics department came up with and the front office blessed.
They were married to a switching/blitzing defense and a three-point-shooting offense, and that inevitably led to a divorce.
Donovan is only married to evolving, and that means trial and error.
Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. were two pieces in a starting group that was at the bottom of the league in plus/minus, so they were taken out of the starting lineup before the victory Sunday against the Raptors and replaced by Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young.
It’s not ideal for 21-year-old No. 7 overall picks to be working with the second unit, but Donovan deemed it necessary.
“I didn’t ask anybody their opinion on it,’’ Donovan said. “I gave everybody an opportunity to talk. But I do feel like maybe the group felt like something needed to happen. I don’t know if they were expecting it or not. But I just feel that I’ve got to try to help the group. And some of the decisions, like, I didn’t know if this was going to work [against the Raptors]. We could’ve lost by 30, and it would’ve been really, really bad, right? So I’m going to try to make decisions to help the group.’’
The demotions also put the onus on Carter and White to understand urgency and hopefully will light a fire under them that previously has only flickered.
“I mean, man, you know me, I’m a competitor, so I take everything as a challenge,’’ White said. “But I know I’ve got to continue to get better as a player overall. I’m in [my second] year. I’ve just got to continue to take the steps forward and continue to be who I am and take everything in stride.’’
And if he does take steps forward, there’s a good chance that lineups and combinations could change again. Donovan will only commit to remaining flexible.
“This is not set in stone for the rest of the year,’’ Donovan said. “We’ll see how it works and what this looks like. Obviously, with the condensed schedule and a lot of games in a short period of time and limited practice time, you just don’t have time to say, ‘OK, let’s take a look at this in practice. Let’s put this group out here and scrimmage.’ We just don’t have this luxury. I didn’t want time to keep going by without trying to do everything I could do to try to help the team.’’