Billy Donovan Boldy Calls Out Star for ‘Heat Checks’

Getty Billy Donovan

Frustration is setting in for the Chicago Bulls’ players, and it appears to be spilling over to head coach Billy Donovan.

On Friday night, the Bulls blew a 20-point lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder before losing the game 127-125 in overtime. After the game, Zach LaVine took part in a post-game media session but did so with about as frustrated of a demeanor as you’ll find in a player.

LaVine’s responses were packed with agitation and it seemed as though there might be some underlying problems that are sure to arise whenever there is pressure to perform, but a failure to produce the desired results.

Donovan has been very positive all season, but even his verbiage and tone took a bit of a shift. The Bulls’ new coach didn’t turn into a complete pessimist, but he did offer more direct criticism for specific players than he has all season.

The team’s second-year point guard Coby White was perhaps the clearest target of Donovan’s candid post-game take.

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Donovan: ‘We Don’t Need a Heat Check’

Donovan was answering a question from’s Sam Smith who asked if he might be expecting too much of a team without a true facilitator at point guard. Donovan sat back in his chair after chuckling a bit and talked about trying to teach the Bulls how to win close games. At the 8:20 mark of the video in the tweet below Donovan talks specifically about a conversation he had with White.

Donovan says:

I was like talking to Coby about this a couple of games ago. We’re on a little bit of a run and he’s made a couple of shots, and then like, he wants to heat check. We don’t need a heat check. We’re on a run. Like, OK, it’s a long rebound and we break the momentum. We’ve got to understand what breaks momentum. I still believe we have control over some of the passes that we made, and some of the decisions that we made.

You’re not going to find a clearer criticism of a player from a coach. Here is a look at the entire session:

Donovan is Spot-On, But White isn’t the Only Guilty Party

Everything Donovan said was exactly right. White will at times hoist up shots that are completely ill-advised. The segments of the game when White falls into these ruts are often a major turning point in the game.

While Donovan is correct about White’s missteps, the 20-year-old point guard is not the only one making these mistakes. The other guilty party is LaVine. While the Bulls’ best player has been a dynamic scorer and shotmaker this season, he’s also made some horrid decisions, and that includes his own share of egregious “heat checks.”

Don’t think for a moment this is something Donovan isn’t aware of, but LaVine is a veteran whom he may not be able to call out publicly the way he has with White. LaVine is already appearing to be a bit in his feelings of late, and a public call-out could only make matters worse. The Bulls will be on the road for an afternoon game on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.

How they respond in that contest will likely determine how they navigate this very rough patch early on in the season.


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