The Chicago Bulls moved into 6th-place in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday thanks to their third-straight victory, but you wouldn’t have guessed it if you only watched Billy Donovan’s postgame press conference.
The Bulls head coach has seen an increasingly improved style of play over the past few weeks. In February, the team holds a record of 8-5 and their Net Rating has ranked 7th-best in the NBA. Defensive effort has taken their overall defensive rating from last-place to 20th-overall. Not great, but better. Meanwhile, the team continues to be one of the most efficient offenses in the league, sitting 6th-overall in effective field goal percentage (56.0). All things considered, that is a pretty encouraging start for a new front office and coaching staff that inherited a 22-43 roster, especially when we consider that only two new faces were added to that roster.
And while Donovan didn’t necessarily disagree with any of that, his comments after last night’s game showed Bulls fans just how much things have changed in Chicago.
The one thing for me as a coach is you always try to look at a standard that you want to play to, okay? I’m by no means disappointed. I think any time you win, you make the corrections the next day, you celebrate the win. These guys have worked really really hard, but I don’t think that we played to the level of standard we want to play to, and we have to build those kinds of habits to be able to do that on a consistent level.
These guys have put a lot of work in. They have been great to work with. I’ve enjoyed every day with these guys. They’ve been great. But I think part of my disappointment is I see so much more in them, and there can be so much more in them. And I think a lot of times as a coach when you’re trying to pull more from your team, you walk off and you sit there and say, ‘we can play better and be better than that.’ So, I’m happy with the win. I’m happy with the way we fought. I’m happy with the resiliency we showed being in a tough situation with Rubio making three free throws and the game going into overtime. I’m happy about that. But I still want these guys to strive for more. I don’t want to have a team where, ‘okay, this is great.’ We need to strive to be better.
The standard has completely shifted inside the Advocate Center. While winning might still feel like a rarity to some of these players, it sure doesn’t feel that way to Donovan. He’s a head coach who has taken his team to the playoffs each year of his NBA coaching career. The expectation is to win. When that’s the floor for your players, they don’t become complacent or satisfied with one victory, especially not one victory that came in overtime against the league’s worst team.
Players are beginning to echo Donovan’s own philosophy on a nightly basis. In fact, if you read some of LaVine’s comments after last night’s game without a name attached, you might as well have believed it was Donovan himself.
Zach: "We have a lot of potential. We can be a lot better. At the end of the day, we got the win. And we are where we are in the standings. But we can’t let that dictate how we play. We have to live up to how good we can be."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 25, 2021
The same goes for Coby White, who was all kinds of pissed off about Wednesday’s victory almost slipping out of the Bulls’ hands.
“We shouldn’t have been in that position. We should have put them away early. We should have came out ready to play, it shouldn’t have taken us going into overtime to come out ready to play and get our stops and get out running.”
I feel like I’ve done a lot of these quote-heavy posts lately, but I also feel like it’s valuable material to share. While on-court production is ultimately what matters most, the Bulls are also in the midst of a massive face-lift. The organization has lacked a true identity and any form of accountability over the last several years. Donovan’s job is just as much to help establish a new culture as it is to improve the style of play. When that’s the case, these kinds of comments hold a lot of weight, and they can go a long way toward changing the perception of this franchise across the NBA.
For more encouraging words, make sure to check out our post from earlier this week …
The Mentality is Changing Inside the Bulls Organization, But Don’t Take My Word For It …https://t.co/gfDQ2PlbW0
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) February 24, 2021