As minutes pile up for Bulls, coach Billy Donovan wants open communication

With the Bulls being so short-handed the last few weeks, veteran DeMar DeRozan and rookie Ayo Dosunmu have taken on a larger workload. It’s Donovan’s job to make sure he protects them from themselves but also wins games.

SHARE As minutes pile up for Bulls, coach Billy Donovan wants open communication
So while Bulls coach Billy Donovan has watched the minutes pile up on rookie Ayo Dosunmu and veteran DeMar DeRozan in the last few weeks, he has made sure they’re honest with him about how they feel and when they need a break.

So while Bulls coach Billy Donovan has watched the minutes pile up on rookie Ayo Dosunmu and veteran DeMar DeRozan in the last few weeks, he has made sure they’re honest with him about how they feel and when they need a break.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Bulls coach Billy Donovan doesn’t work by a minutes textbook, like some coaches do.

A heavy workload on his players concerns him, but he is also in the business of winning games. The best way for him to walk that fine line is to communicate.

So while Donovan has watched the minutes pile up on rookie Ayo Dosunmu and veteran DeMar DeRozan in the last few weeks, he has made sure they’re honest with him about how they feel and when they need a break.

It’s a much easier conversation to have with DeRozan, simply because he’s in his 13th season and, at 32, knows his body and what it can take.

DeRozan entered the Bulls’ game Monday against the Suns averaging 35.4 minutes, his most since the 2015-16 season with the Raptors. He had averaged 38.2 minutes in the last 10 games he had played, taking only the game Jan. 24 against the Thunder off.

That’s why his 45-point effort in 41 minutes in the Bulls’ loss Sunday to the 76ers was so impressive. It came just a few days after he played 45 minutes in an overtime loss Thursday to the Raptors.

DeRozan said he figures out times to rest during the framework of a game.

‘‘I use timeouts as best as I can as my rest,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘But I don’t really think about it when your adrenaline is rushing. You’re trying to win, [so] you really don’t think about it in the moment.’’

That’s Donovan’s job, and it’s one he takes very seriously.

‘‘I talk to DeMar a lot just to get a gauge of where he’s at physically,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Obviously, at the end of the game, the accumulation of all those minutes being in the high 30s is something I’m concerned about.

‘‘But with what’s happened to our team and where we’re at, he’s a really competitive guy. And I think when you’re dealing with a guy that knows his body better than anybody, you’re going to communicate with him and have conversations with him.

‘‘I think if it was up to DeMar, he would play 48 minutes. But he also knows that’s probably not the best for him or for our team.’’

Dosunmu has a similar mindset. He just wants to play and compete, and minutes are for others to worry about.

He entered the game against the Suns averaging 37.5 minutes his last 10 games and was showing no signs of running into a rookie wall.

‘‘I think his natural competitive nature and want-to in order to get better has fueled that stuff,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘But he’s handled himself well, considering Lonzo [Ball] going down and Alex [Caruso] going down. I haven’t felt any sense from him that he’s overwhelmed or mentally or physically tired.’’

Green light

Forward Javonte Green entered the game against the Suns having reached double figures in scoring in five consecutive games, but he downplayed it as just trying to help with the team short-handed.

‘‘I feel like it’s just the opportunity I have,’’ Green said. ‘‘Just got to step up. We’re down so many players, just stepping in and trying to be prepared to knock down shots when I’m open.’’

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