Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants team to play to a consistent standard
The Bulls have shown this season that they are capable of beating the league’s elite, but Wednesday was a reminder that they’ve also had some real embarrassing moments.
SAN FRANCISCO — It would have been easy for Billy Donovan to stand in front of his team Thursday, grab the game film from the embarrassing 132-113 loss Wednesday to the Suns and simply toss it in a garbage can.
But that’s not how the Bulls coach works.
In Donovan’s world, the players needed to watch it and wear it. And not just the players, but himself, the entire coaching staff, and anyone else involved in what went down in the clinic that was put on against the Bulls.
This was a stink that Donovan didn’t want to be allowed to dissipate.
“There’s always things you can take [from the last game],’’ Donovan said. “It is only one game, but I always think there’s something you can learn from games. We can’t have the attitude of, ‘Well, it’s just one game, no big deal, let’s get on the plane and get to the next one.’ I’m not a fan of that at all. I’m not a big flush-it-down-the-toilet guy.’’
What Donovan is, however, is a coach who’s trying to get his players to understand that there’s a standard of basketball that needs to be played on both ends of the floor, and when that standard isn’t met, well, Phoenix happens.
The real frustration with the 9-12 Bulls is that this season isn’t like last year, when they were completely overwhelmed by the elite teams. In beating the Celtics (twice), Bucks and Heat already this season, the blueprint seemingly was understood.
But the Bulls also own embarrassing blowout losses to the Cavaliers and Nuggets before the beatdown in Phoenix.
“The disappointing part, the challenging part . . . it’s consistently being inconsistent,’’ Donovan said. “At times we can be two different teams. We can be like the team in Utah [in Monday’s win] that’s really helping each other and we’re kind of on a string and moving. And there’s other times we’re not like that. When you play against a really good team like Phoenix, that’s won at a high level, that’s got obviously a lot of consistency in their team, whether they miss or make shots, whatever is going on, they’re going to play the way they play. We need to be able to play the way we need to in order to be successful. There’s times we do it and other times we don’t. We’ve got to be better at that.’’
So how can Donovan accomplish that?
There’s the rub.
Until his players — specifically his “Big Three’’ of Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan — grab the reins and lead in that department, and do so on both ends of the floor, it’s just noise coming from the coach.
Donovan can call for only so many close-out drills in practice.
“To me the identity piece that you’re trying to build, any identity, is always purely and grounded in sacrifice,’’ Donovan said. “A lot of times it’s giving yourself up for that part. We’ve got to help each other more on both ends. We’ve got to be a team that’s gonna have five-to-seven guys in double figures, and we’ve got to have 25 to 35 assists per game. That’s how we’ve got to play. We don’t do that, we may get away with it, but it’s going to be hard to sustain it.’’
As this team has shown far too often this season, that’s easier said than done.