I tip my hat to Billy Donovan.
The Chicago Bulls head coach was one win away from booking a ticket to Cleveland alongside Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Ayo Dosunmu. But, unfortunately, the Bulls fell just short against one of the East’s top squads last night, putting Miami Erik Spoelstra on the bench come All-Star Weekend.
While I’m sure he’d rather have his star players recognized for this emphatic turnaround in Chicago, Donovan deserved his own moment under the spotlight. Without his willingness to join the organization one offseason ago, it’s hard to imagine the same kind of focused and winning culture we see today. He has played a significant role in piecing together a roster many questioned, finding a way to repeatedly put stars and role players, alike, in a position to succeed.
When DeMar DeRozan sat in front of reporters after the loss, he looked noticeably bummed when asked about this missed opportunity for his head coach:
“I told Billy at the end of the game. I tried my best to go out there and get this game for him, for those guys. We would have loved to see those guys have the opportunity. That opportunity does not come around often, so whenever you get the opportunity, you want to try to reward them. We jut fell short of it. It just, but we just got to keep pushing.”
Sorry, Billy. There is always next year!
• DeMar DeRozan did everything he could to steal last night’s game. He made the superstar play of Joel Embiid a wash, matching his 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists with his own 45 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. While he may have ended up on the wrong side of the box score, it was still the kind of performance that further validates a starting spot in the year’s All-Star Game. Not to mention, it will only strengthen his All-NBA case at the end of the year when voters look back on just how well he matched up with his fellow top talents.
• DeRozan will have his name pop up plenty in the Bulls history books after this season.
DeMar DeRozan yesterday:
✅ 45 PTS
✅ 9 REB
✅ 7 AST
DeRozan is the fourth player in @chicagobulls history to record at least 45p/5r/5a in a game.
He's the second player in franchise history to record at least 30 25-point games prior to the All-Star Game (Michael Jordan, 10x). pic.twitter.com/KmGfmuinr2
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) February 7, 2022
• What last night also reminded us is that DeRozan isn’t meant to do this by himself. Don’t get me wrong, he had solid help from Nikola Vucevic (23pts, 7reb, 5ast), but the big man was preoccupied with the toughest matchup of the night. What the Bulls needed was the supporting cast to outplay that of the 76ers, which I think we can all agree is a lot easier said than done for this depleted roster. Chicago had to rely on 22 minutes from a struggling-to-find-his-shot Troy Brown Jr., 22 minutes from an inexperienced Malcolm Hill, and 34 minutes(!) from an aggressively one-dimensional Matt Thomas. So while we can say they need to beat these fellow East juggernauts to prove their worth, it’s hard to expect them to actually do that at a time like this. They simply don’t have the firepower … and that sucks.
• Real quick: Thomas simply can’t take more shots than Ayo Dosunmu or Javonte Green. He went 2-10 from the field last night on a dismal 1-7 from downtown. I get that Donovan likes having his ability to space the floor in the rotation right now, but if he isn’t hitting shots early, he begins to feel like a major liability. Defenses attack him on one end, and his confidence to shoot the 3-ball puts blinders up on the other. I know the Bulls don’t have many other options, but does he really need 34 minutes?
• This is also why the Bulls can’t afford the kind of losses we’ve seen against the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors. Those teams may have some star-caliber talent, but enough to take down a Bulls team with DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and Zach LaVine? If the team isn’t positioned to be one of the top-4 or 5 teams in the conference, the Bulls still must find a way to grab the win if they want to stay truly competitive for the top seed.
• Speaking on injuries, that is exactly what DeRozan brought up when asked for his thoughts on the team’s trade deadline plans after last night’s game:
“We’re missing Lonzo Ball, one of the top point guards in this league. Alex Caruso, one of the best defenders in this league. Patrick Williams, one of the young stars in this league. We haven’t had those guys, and we have them, and they’ll be back,” DeRozan told reporters. “We don’t need to worry or stress about having nobody else. Those three right there, I guarantee everyone in the NBA wishes they had those three guys. We’re going to get those three guys back, and we’ll be fine.”
• To be clear, we don’t expect him to say anything else, right? The question in general is a bit silly to ask a player, especially when he’s seated next to a fellow teammate. DeRozan isn’t going to say he expects or wants anyone inside his locker room to get the boot. He also isn’t going to insinuate the roster, as currently constructed, isn’t good enough to achieve its goals. The guy is a leader and saying anything other than what he did would have been a real surprise.
• With that said, the expected answer also happens to be the right answer in this situation. The Bulls might be banged up, but they are in a position to (*knock on wood*) get all of their players back by the postseason (we got some great news on Patrick Williams yesterday, by the way). Making moves around the margins to improve things like power forward and shooting depth is still understandable. But making a big splash doesn’t feel in the cards knowing this team vaulted themselves to the top of the East while healthy. I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not holding my breath.
• An example of one of those marginal moves:
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) February 6, 2022
• Javonte Green continues to be one of the more underrated acquisitions of last season’s trade deadline. The Bulls basically got him as a salary throw away in their three-team trade with the Celtics and Wizards. He’s been an ideal role player for this athletic and transition-savvy team, most recently showing that he can take over a bigger scoring load when needed. What a steal for this front office to get him on a two-year $3.4 million deal this summer.
Javonte Green's last five games:
14.6pts, (60.0 FG%) 4.2reb, 1.6stl, 1.4blk
Five-straight games scoring 10+ is by far the longest streak of his career. He's filled any role this team has asked of him. Such an underrated deadline move from last season.
— Elias Schuster (@Schuster_Elias) February 7, 2022
• Heck of a duel.
Sunday marked the first 40-point duel in the 76ers-Bulls rivalry since Nov. 16, 1988.
Michael Jordan had 52, while Charles Barkley had 42 and picked up the win. Jordan and Barkley also have the only additional 40-point duel in this series (Jan. 20, 1987). pic.twitter.com/nVBcOnuesf
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 7, 2022
• Every night Ayo Dosunmu does something awesome:
Ayo is absolutely ballin. Another no look assist pic.twitter.com/YrKzKA9N11
— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) February 6, 2022
• Just do the trade, you cowards.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 7, 2022
• Good way to catch up on all those smaller moves:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) February 7, 2022