The Chicago Bulls haven’t been on the same page since the season tipped off, and the fingers have started to point in the direction of Billy Donovan.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania fueled fan criticism on Tuesday with a report about where the head coach currently stands inside the locker room. According to the NBA Insider, players have started to question both him and members of his staff as the losses pile up:
In the third season of Billy Donovan’s tenure, there’s also been increased skepticism within the locker room about the head coach and the coaching staff. For Donovan, the challenge of optimizing DeRozan and LaVine together through a balance of execution, accountability and cooperation looms large. Donovan’s job is currently safe, however, as The Athletic reported that he signed a multiyear contract extension prior to the start of this season.
First things first, this can be one of the strongest indicators that a team is entering the point of no return. Once a head coach loses a locker room, it’s practically impossible to get that group back. Now, do I think Donovan has completely lost this roster just yet? No. But I do believe things are pretty much hanging on by a thread.
With that in mind, it’s even more frustrating that the front office handed Donovan a secret contract extension this offseason. While I don’t necessarily think this was the front office’s worst move, it will certainly make the list of blunders if the team is forced to revert course this season.
I do want to underscore that I don’t believe Donovan is the biggest problem with this organization. What I think is that this front office built a fragile and faulty roster that wasn’t going to achieve long-term success. None of that is to say that Donovan is void of blame, but you can only play the cards you’re dealt. And I think most of us can agree that Donovan is holding a pretty crappy hand.
At the end of the day, I think that’s why his job remains safe. The contract extension surely plays a role in that, but I think this organization also knows that this is more about the personnel issues and less about the coaching staff. Giving Donovan – who has led a team to the playoffs in every single one of his NBA seasons but one – a more cohesive roster could be worth a shot.
The big question, though, is how much will this roster need to change for the locker room to land back in his favor? Is his relationship with the star talent at risk of falling apart or would they hop back on board with a revamped supporting cast?
I’m most interested in Donovan’s current relationship with Zach LaVine. We all know the two had bumped heads earlier this season when Donovan benched LaVine in a 4th quarter loss to the Orlando Magic. Add in all the extra losing, and it’s not hard to imagine that the max player and head coach are still struggling to see eye-to-eye. Not to mention, LaVine is one of the players who spoke on the record to The Athletic for their recent story, suggesting that he could have been the one sharing this idea of “increased skepticism” around his head coach.
Speaking of which, Charania has plenty to say about LaVine in his lengthy write-up. For more of our thoughts on that, make sure to check out the post below: