Make that twice in the last two weeks. After snapping back in response to being pulled in the final minutes of a loss, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine is in disagreement with his head coach over a decision made by the latter.
When Billy Donovan pulled LaVine in the Bulls’ 108-107 loss to the Orlando Magic, he cited the guard’s poor play.
He would go on to challenge his stars to step up their effort on both ends of the floor and has now made a change to the starting lineup. It’s that change that LaVine is not in full concert with Donovan on. And while it is still not expected to be any sort of final straw in their relationship, we can now cite multiple instances of some disturbance within the ranks.
But how far will it go?
LaVine Not Loving It
“Nah, nah,” LaVine said of Donovan’s decision to switch up the starters, per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson, “I think that was his opinion.”
The straightforward Donovan said that after 21 games, he had seen enough from the original five to make a change and “see something different”. He did not as his team was able to bring the game to within one point before seeing a doomsday sequence take place including a traveling violation by LaVine giving the Warriors control for good.
While that answer was described as “terse”, Johnson insists there was no animosity behind the response. Instead, LaVine – who has openly supported all of his teammates – is simply choosing to point the finger at himself and his teammates.
“Coach got to make his decisions,” LaVine said, “but you know the best players on the team, we got to be the ones that make the plays. On bad days, take the criticism. Good days, make sure to help us win. Play defense. Make the shot. That’s what you do. That’s why you’re in position to do this. It’s a player-driven league. I think it always starts from top to bottom.”
To LaVine’s point, the Bulls’ Big Three is getting outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions when they share the floor, per Cleaning The Glass.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as LaVine expressed similar sentiments following his benching, though he remained adamant that he should have been on the floor while insisting that he and Donovan are “good”.
Likewise, LaVine is a team guy.
Saying that the locker room wanted the change could have unintended ramifications and the Bulls are nothing if they are not built on chemistry. This is one of the benefits of the continuity that Bulls vice president of basketball operations Aruturas Karnisovas pushed all summer.
Growing List of Concerns
Despite the tough sledding the Bulls have had and his struggles while returning from after offseason knee surgery, LaVine is not rocking the boat. For every mention of what he would prefer, he also notes that it is Donovan’s job to make the tough decisions. The two are tied together for the foreseeable future.
LaVine is signed through 2027 while Donovan received a multi-year extension before the season despite having another year on his current contract.
It is fair to wonder what the cumulative effect of these flashpoint moments will be.
“Fact is, Zach is not having a good year,” a rival executive told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney, “and when a player is frustrated, he might point his frustration at the coach. Every coach worries about that with a star player who’s struggling.”
So, while it’s nothing now, that doesn’t mean that it cannot become something down the road that will need to be addressed. But winning also helps and a good win streak with the schedule set to lighten up could be more of a cure-all than any lineup change Donovan can manufacture with this current group.