Donovan Reveals Bulls’ Trade Deadline Approach With Players

Billy Donovan, Bulls coach (center)

Getty Billy Donovan, Bulls coach (center)

Bulls coach Billy Donovan is no dummy. With a little more than five weeks until this year’s NBA trade deadline, Chicago remains in the crosswinds of the rumor mill, looking to add young players where it can while potentially shopping veterans if management decides to fold its hand on this season.

The Bulls have a shot at a playoff spot. At the same time, they’ve got a new regime in place and are eager to reconfigure this team more in the mold of Donovan and new team president Arturas Karnisovas.

The hard work for Donovan is to keep the Bulls’ fire lit even as speculation heats up and continues into late March.

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“The biggest challenge, I think, for myself and the staff coaching-wise is, can we keep these guys really engaged to compete and play?” Donovan said, according to the Sun-Times. “Because even if there is stuff out there, that may or may not be true. I have no idea.

‘I have not talked to Arturas in any detail about any of that stuff, and he has not come to me and said, ‘Hey, listen, something is close to happening.’ It’s all been focused on helping these guys — helping the team — get better in some of their roles. That’s kind of where we put the focus.’’

Bulls Could Be at the Center of NBA Trade Talks

The possibilities for a deal in Chicago are lengthy. There is reported interest in Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, but the potential for deals won’t stop there.

Thad Young, Garrett Temple, Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky—they all could be on the move in the coming weeks and, as veterans, they understand that is part of life in the NBA. Younger guys like Lauri Markkanen could hit the trade block, too, and the persistent rumors around Zach LaVine, Chicago’s best player, will keep the chatter going on sports-talk radio until spring (finally) comes.

After a rocky start to the season in which they were struck by COVID-19 and injuries, the Bulls have played better lately, including Mondays overtime win in Indiana. The Bulls are 11-15, ninth in the East and just 2.0 games away from the No. 5 seed in the conference.

The Bulls have not been to the playoffs in four seasons.

Billy Donovan: Trade Deadline is a ‘Hard Time’

Coaches have different ways of handling the trade deadline. Donovan seems to be in the camp that does not discuss trades with players until there is something firm to discuss. He said he has not talked about transactions much since Markkanen was dealing with his extension question in December.

Said Donovan:

The only conversation I had with anybody about that was Lauri when that extension kind of came and went. I was not so much talking to him about what had happened, but I just wanted to make sure he was in a good place to go out and play because we were just kind of right at the end of the preseason. I have not had any players come to me and talk to me about that.

There’s got to be a level of understanding that there’s things you can and cannot control, and what they can control is playing. I think this is always, to be honest with you, a hard time. You’ve got the All-Star break around the corner, and you’ve got [the trade deadline] coming up.

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