Bulls coach Billy Donovan still trying to get real look at new lineup

Following an embarrassing loss in Phoenix, Donovan and the coaching staff wanted to change the starting lineup. That lasted just one game before injuries hit. That could change against New York on Wednesday, when Donovan could roll it out again.

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The Bulls’ Alex Caruso and Javonte Green try to defend the Warriors’ Klay Thompson.

The Bulls’ Alex Caruso and Javonte Green try to defend the Warriors’ Klay Thompson.

Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP

Bulls coach Billy Donovan had seen enough from his starters after an embarrassing showing in Phoenix two weeks ago. But right after he inserted Alex Caruso and Javonte Green in the lineup for Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams, respectively, Green went down with a sore knee and Caruso’s tailbone issue cropped up a few games later.

Donovan got to see his new-look lineup in action for one game, a 119-111 loss at Golden State.

That could change Wednesday night, when the Bulls host Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks. It’s possible that grouping will be healthy again.


Green returned Sunday in Atlanta, but he was limited to 14 minutes off the bench. Caruso practiced Tuesday and gave a thumb’s-up to return. But it was uncertain if Donovan would start either because of the injury concerns.

Working in Donovan’s favor is that, besides the “Big Three’’ of Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan, the rest of the team is ego-free. Green made that clear.

“Starting, coming off the bench, no difference for me, man,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to get better, but more importantly, make my teammates better. That’s the ultimate goal. Just win games, and that will take you to the end of where you want to go. That’s my mentality. Just do whatever it takes to win games.’’

That’s good, because what Donovan made clear was that just because Green and Caruso were inserted in the starting lineup in late November, it doesn’t mean they’ll see January, or even late December.

“To be honest with you, we may put Javonte out there and then say, ‘You know what? We need to go back with Patrick,’ ” Donovan said. “It’s more about the combination of guys.’’

Williams started against the Hawks, scoring eight points in 25 minutes. He has played better in the last five games, scoring in double digits in three of them.

So what can Williams do to get back in the lineup?

As long as the starting group of Green, Caruso, Vucevic, DeRozan and LaVine plays well — once the players get a few games under their belts — it might not matter what Williams does with the bench unit.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily anything Patrick has or hasn’t done as much as how do you get combinations of players out there that are functioning really, really well?’’ Donovan said. “Clearly, I think there’s been some inconsistencies on both units. The starters sometimes and obviously the second unit, so we’re just trying to switch things up and get more consistency from the first six minutes of the game to the last six minutes of the quarter, going to that second unit.

“We may end up getting to a situation where, quite honestly, it’s the best thing for our team to keep Patrick there. It’s not like, ‘Hey, he hasn’t played well, he doesn’t function well with that group.’ It’s just we were struggling with consistency at that time. When we put Javonte in there, I wanted to see what it looked like.’’

Maybe soon Donovan actually will.

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