Despite record, Bulls coach Billy Donovan and his staff are praised

Kevin Durant and Thad Young had some positive comments about the coaching staff in the last week, and Durant said the organization is headed in the right direction. That’s all well and good for Zach LaVine, but he wants the team to back up that talk.

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Kevin Durant has expressed his admiration for the direction the Bulls are headed.

Kevin Durant has expressed his admiration for the direction the Bulls are headed.


Plaudits from the NBA’s elite are nice, but as guard Zach LaVine pointed out, talk is talk until the Bulls live up to the hype.

“You can’t take that as a sign that we’re there yet,’’ LaVine said after hearing recent comments made by Nets star Kevin Durant. “We still have to get the job done. I think we’re a better team, and we’re going to continue to get better. Having your peers’ respect is big, but you have to earn your respect, as well.’’

After the Nets beat the Bulls on Tuesday, Durant said he was “really a fan of this team.’’

Durant was coached by Billy Donovan during their Thunder days, but he isn’t one to dish out compliments just to go through the motions.

“Obviously, being coached by Billy and his staff, a few of those guys on his staff, I know exactly how those guys are approaching every day as a unit,’’ Durant said. “And you can just see it out on the floor.

“Having [Nikola] Vucevic come midseason, those guys trying to figure out who they are at such a fast pace, you know, the last 20 games of the season, so I feel like they’re going to figure it out even more going into next season. But they have a lot of talent, a lot of different guys that can do a variety of things. But Zach and ‘Vooch’ and Coby [White], I feel like are the key pieces to this team — and Patrick Williams.’’

Durant wasn’t the only veteran to give Donovan and the coaching staff a pat on the back for this season despite the Bulls’ position in the standings.

Bulls forward Thad Young, who also isn’t one to mince words when it comes to a coaching staff and front office, spoke Thursday about how much more open dialogue there has been this season compared to the Jim Boylen days and the old front office.

“I think they’re receptive to things that we want to do as players,’’ Young said. “They want to continue to help guys grow and get better. But they’re coming each day with a winning mindset. And the only thing they believe in is winning. There’s no, ‘Oh, we’re just developing.’

“I love that about Billy and his staff. This year was more like a family as opposed to kind of like last year, where guys felt like they weren’t listened to and everything was kind of off the wall a little bit. The coaches, they listen. We’re able to go in and talk to [executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] whenever we want to. It’s an open line of communication throughout the whole organization.’’

Growing pains

Young did admit before the game with the Raptors that playing in a new role since the Vucevic trade at the deadline has been an adjustment for him.

“Obviously, there’s some challenges there, just being able to figure out how to facilitate for the rest of the team and having ‘Vooch’ on the court with me doing different things, but I think it definitely can work,’’ Young said.

It’s the facilitating that has been the issue, as Young’s assist numbers have dropped a bit since Vucevic was acquired from the Magic.

Young averaged about 4.4 assists through March, but that number dropped to 3.9 in April.

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