Bulls coach Billy Donovan hopes his players learned from time in Paris

Call it guarded optimism for Donovan, but his hope is all the time spent together in Paris will carry weight in his players attacking the game the right way and playing for each other here on out.

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Bulls coach Billy Donovan hopes his team’s week in Paris will jumpstart a turnaround.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan hopes his team’s week in Paris will jumpstart a turnaround.

Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP

PARIS — Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants to believe that something special happened in France.

He wants to buy into the idea that having players and coaches — with family and friends — together in one city for about a week, mingling at team events and spending time with each other will resonate.

It will reinforce a lesson that he has been trying to beat home since early in camp.

“The guy standing next to you has to be important; you have to have so much respect for him,’’ Donovan said of the unselfishness he wants his team to embody.

It felt like Paris did that.

But there’s also some wariness emanating from Donovan. Call that the New Yorker in him.

“Do I feel like we’ve turned the corner, so to speak?’’ Donovan said after the victory against the Pistons in the Paris Game 2023. “I don’t want to say that because there have been some other times that I felt we did.’’

Remember the December stinker in Minnesota in which the Bulls gave up 150 points? That disaster was followed up by impressive wins in Miami, Atlanta and New York, then — oops — a loss to the lowly Rockets. Then there were consecutive victories against the Nets, 76ers and Jazz, which were followed up with losses to the Celtics and Wizards and another embarrassment against the Thunder.

Too much inconsistency for the 21-24 Bulls. Too many two-steps-forward, two-steps-back moments.

“To me, it’s all about building,’’ Donovan said. “We had a situation out of the Minnesota game where we gave up 150 points and responded pretty well the rest of the road trip. Bottom line is we’ve got to do it every night.

“There’s no guarantee you’ll win the game if you do it, but you have no chance of winning the game if you don’t. Am I optimistic? Yes, because I like the character and the guys in the locker room, but, again, we’ve got to prove we can do it for a sustainable amount of time, and that’s the challenge.’’

It’s a challenge for several reasons.

The first is the obvious one, and that’s the Eastern Conference standings.

By winning percentage, the Bulls have the fifth-easiest schedule left in the NBA, but the weaker teams are the ones that have tripped them up. That’s why they -entered Friday in 10th, the final play-in spot.

But there’s also the

Feb. 9 trade deadline approaching, and the front office has to decide if this roster is worth keeping intact. According to sources, there were no signs yet that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was looking to be a seller.

Multiple wins against the Celtics, Bucks and Nets have him believing that the team can make a run in April.

But that opinion can change in the next few weeks. It’s what forward DeMar DeRozan has been trying to get his teammates to understand for a while.

“It’s gut-cutting time now, every single game,’’ DeRozan said. “We showed the first half of the season that we can compete with the top teams in this league. Now it’s about putting it together every night because these games, we can’t get back. Every game is just as important as the next. As long as we have that mindset about every single game, every single practice from here on out, we’ve got a good chance to put ourselves in a good position.’’

Those were good thoughts from DeRozan, but they’re merely words. The Bulls need to prove it on the court and make sure their positive momentum wasn’t left in Paris next to the hotel-room key.

“The more we can play and care for each other, regardless of what you’re going through individually, is critically important,’’ Donovan said. “Now we’ve just got to do it.’’

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