Bulls survive ‘Dame Time’ as NBA trade deadline looms

The Bulls’ “Big Three” of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic overcame Damian Lillard’s 40 points and turned things around in the second half. But with just two games left before Thursday’s trade deadline, will the win give the front office any clarity?

SHARE Bulls survive ‘Dame Time’ as NBA trade deadline looms
Coby White

Bulls coach Billy Donovan has no idea what the trade deadline will look like for the team come Thursday.

At least no idea he was willing to share Saturday.

What Donovan did share was he and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas were on the same page as far as where the team was, and if they did have a difference of opinion, Karnisovas had the final say.

“Ultimately, it’s his decision as to what he feels is best,’’ Donovan said. “And I’m always going to support him and back him on that because I trust him. So if there was a situation where I said, ‘Listen, I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ and he says, ‘No, Billy, here’s why,’ I’m behind him. I’m going to support him.’’

Good to know, if that even comes into play.

The Sun-Times reported last week that the Bulls had given no indication to the rest of the league that they’re sellers, let alone that they’re blowing up the roster.

With a second consecutive victory — a 129-121 decision against the Trail Blazers — the immediate plan remained: They’d get help if it was available; otherwise, they might make a few tweaks.

Donovan acknowledged that plans change this time of year, especially for a team that was considered still underachieving with a 25-27 record.

“He has not really given me anything specific,’’ Donovan said of his latest discussions with Karnisovas. “I know we’re five or six days away from the deadline, but like he always tells me, when something really comes up that’s pertinent that he wants to fill me in on, he’ll fill me in.

“But he’s on the phone, and I think there’s all kinds of calls and conversations going on with all these teams right now. There’s nothing that he’s really talked to me where he’s said, ‘Hey, listen, we’re close on this or close on that.’ ”

The Bulls have time on their side to change direction. And speaking of time, they got a full dose of “Dame Time’’ in the first half Saturday.

With Alex Caruso (foot sprain) sidelined, All-Star Damian Lillard took full advantage of the backcourt early on, scoring 28 points on 8-for-11 shooting and going 9-for-9 from the free-throw line.

It had all the makings of another game getting away from the Bulls, especially when the Blazers (26-27) built their lead to 17 early in the third quarter. But the Bulls finally woke up with a 29-7 run.

Ayo Dosunmu hit a few big threes, Zach LaVine heated up and Lillard was held to just three third-quarter points with a more aggressive mentality thrown at him defensively. It allowed the Bulls to take a five-point lead going into the fourth.

A lead they would add on to, led by LaVine’s 36 points.

“Obviously, ‘Dame’ got hot,’’ LaVine said. “We just had to make some adjustments, keep playing. We started playing for each other and scrambling on the defensive end. That’s what we needed.’’

And while Lillard did finish with a game-high 40 points, the Bulls’ “Big Three’’ of LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic combined for 86, setting the stage for a very interesting week.

“I feel like he listens to me,’’ Donovan added of Karnisovas. “But he’s looking at the totality of the team in terms of building it, because there are certain things as a coach that I’m not paying attention to. I’m just watching the games and scouting, and he’s got a much broader picture.

“If there was somebody I feel wasn’t a good fit, I would feel totally comfortable telling him that. But that’s going to be his decision, and I support him and trust him in that.’’

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