Billy Donovan Has Reportedly Told Russell Westbrook that Chicago “Should be the Place”

The Chicago Bulls remain strongly connected to Russell Westbrook.

Most recently, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls would be considered “frontrunners” if Westbrook does reach a buyout with the Utah Jazz. And the connections between the two parties are obvious, as several of Westbrook’s old coaches from Oklahoma City currently reside on the Bulls’ bench — one of whom is Billy Donovan, who has reportedly already reached out to his former MVP.

According to Chris Haynes, head coach Billy Donovan told Russell Westbrook that he sees a fit for Westbrook in Chicago.

“Let’s talk about Russell Westbrook real quick,” Haynes said on the latest episode of the #Thisleague UNCUT podcast. “I was told Billy Donovan with the Bulls, his message has been relayed to Russ that Chicago should be the place for him. I don’t know if they have talked extensively. I don’t if it’s a text. But I was told his message has been relayed that Chicago should be the place.” 

As Haynes said, it’s unclear how much actual recruiting Donovan has done, but it does appear clear that he would more than welcome the veteran point guard to the team. One major reason for that is likely the Bulls’ clear lack of a true floor general. With a Lonzo Ball return almost surely off the table, Westbrook could at least provide the team with the kind of facilitating and push-the-pace mentality with which they’ve succeeded in the past.

On one hand, I couldn’t care less about throwing a flyer at Westbrook. While I’m not going to be tricked into believing that the team would be significantly better, what do they have to lose? This team isn’t a true contender and it’s pretty clear they aren’t going to try to better position themselves to keep their top-4 protected first this season. The season is basically a lost cause, so why not add someone like him into the mix for 25 games?

On the other hand, the fit could prove to be truly awful. If the goal for Karnisovas is to evaluate what he has over the final two months of the season, you don’t need someone like Westbrook coming in and taking the ball out of players’ hands. The fact of the matter is that he’s one of the most high-usage players in the NBA who also can’t shoot the 3-ball and loves to play downhill. For guys like LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic – who all do some of their best work in the paint – that sure doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven.

I’d almost rather just continue to watch this trio try to figure it out on their own. As annoying as these final 25 games might be, they could also be truly important in officially deciding who should stay and who should go this summer.

But, fine, let’s assume the Bulls do make a run at him. What are the chances they can actually sign him? While they might be the most interested in him, that doens’t necessarily mean the interest is mutual. Westbrook has also been linked to the Los Angeles Clippers quite a bit, and this move would allow for him to both stay home and have a far better chance at competing for a championship. If playing time and showcasing his talent for a new contract is the goal, though, perhaps he does favor a situation like the one in Chicago.

There is also the question of dollar signs. How much would Westbrook want to finish out the season? The thing about buyouts is that sometimes players will go look to recoup what they gave up in that buyout elsewhere in the market. Chicago isn’t in a position to offer Westbrook all that much while also staying below the luxury tax line, which they are currently $1.7 million away from cracking. At this point in the season, there is truly no use in entering the tax, so signing Westbrook would only make sense if he accepts something under that mark like the prorated version of the league’s minimum salary (which is around $600,000 right now (h/t Ryan Borja on Twitter).

To be clear, this would also have to come tied to waiving a player. My best guess is the Bulls would try to dump Tony Bradley or Marko Simonovic. Bradley is officially off the books this summer, while Simonovic has a partially-guaranteed deal next season.

All of this is, obviously, moot if Westbrook doesn’t decide to puruse a buyout with the Jazz. He could very well accept his fully $47 million this season and simply look to sign a deal over the summer. However, when we consider how competitive of a players he’s been, my gut does tell me he’ll find a way out of Utah. Will he end up in Chicago, though? We’ll see.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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