Why the Billy Donovan-Zach LaVine relationship is important in the long run for Bulls


It seemed fitting that the Bulls beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, moving to the sixth seed in the East behind Zach LaVine’s 35 points the day after LaVine won his first All-Star pick.

But not for the reason you might think.

Yes, the Bulls acquired LaVine from the Timberwolves when the previous administrative regime decided to dive into a full rebuild and trade Jimmy Butler in June 2017. And, yes, LaVine is the Bulls’ first All-Star since Butler himself anus.

But it’s more for this reason: The Timberwolves arrived Wednesday night with Chris Finch directing his second game since replacing fired Ryan Saunders. That’s three coaches (Tom Thibodeau, Saunders, Finch) in the four years since LaVine left town.

That fumble is a common sight for LaVine, who, in Billy Donovan, plays for his sixth coach in his seventh NBA season. Flip Saunders, Sam Michell, Thibodeau, Fred Hoiberg, Jim Boylen, Donovan.

But this is why LaVine’s rise to All-Star status in Donovan’s first season with the Bulls is so important. Donovan is not going anywhere. It’s said in the league that LaVine isn’t either.

Therefore, a partnership that has gotten off to a strong and respectful start should only grow stronger and grow.

It’s another reason why it makes sense for the Bulls to extend LaVine, whether it happens this offseason or next. Think what you can achieve with some stability as a coach, particularly one of Donovan’s stature.

“Billy has been great, man,” LaVine said. “Total 180 of what we had last year, because we practically have the same team. We have had our share of ups and downs, games that we should have won and we did not go out and play the right way. But our approach and my approach is very different mentally. .

“I’ve been saying this the whole time: (Donovan) He challenges you and is highly respected and does it in the right way. Obviously, we were all bought from the beginning. We were ready to fight for this guy. “

Donovan uses equally complimentary language when asked about LaVine.

In my short time with Zach, I’ll say this: it’s unfortunate in many ways that people don’t get a chance to see behind the scenes who he is as a person. He’s an amazing teammate and a great guy, and I think that demonstration, of what you were talking about with his teammates, goes to the heart of how they feel for him personally, ”Donovan said, when asked about the joy. Genuine from your teammates by LaVine’s All-Star Pick. “I would say that no matter how good a player he is and how well he has played, he is even a better person than that. I have great respect for his game and what he has done and the way that he has worked and tried to get better and better, but he has always been incredibly accessible. He has had an incredibly open mind.

“He’s the same guy every day. I think consistency is an important part for a player. As talented and talented as he is, he’s the same guy in personality every day. I always ask him, ‘How are you?’ He says, ‘I’m fine. I’m always fine. ‘ I think it speaks to you. Boys enjoy being around him and boys enjoy his company. “

This trait of trainability has been noted by other coaches who have trained LaVine. But this Donovan-LaVine partnership oozes potential.

LaVine’s commitment to wanting to become a two-way player, a process that former coach Jim Boylen, maligned as he has been, began by challenging him, fits perfectly with Donovan’s no-nonsense approach to responsibility.

It’s clear that LaVine is responding to Donovan. He said he respects how directly Donovan challenges you. But when he says “he does it the right way,” this is what LaVine means: Donovan does it without seeking credit. He empowers the player even when he keeps that player at a high level.

Zach was the one who made those decisions, who really wanted to focus on becoming a two-way player, who wanted to focus on winning. It came from him, ”Donovan said. “Now obviously when you have a player there, I think as a coach you try to put things on his plate that are going to put him in a position where he has the challenge of facing some of the things he wants to face. ‘Okay, do you want to be a two-way player? This is what it takes, this is what it looks like. This is what you need to do. Do you want to be a guy who wants to be a leader? Well, you have to go in and be the hardest working guy. If you want to be able to hold your teammates accountable, you must first hold yourself accountable. ‘ You can’t be the type of person who doesn’t and say, ‘Listen, do what I say, not what I do.

“I think it has been a learning process for him. Because I think because he’s so talented, a lot of that has been, ‘Give me the ball, and I’ll try to get us home and win the game.’ And I think you’ve realized that that doesn’t work. So I think there are things that he has learned in the six years he’s been in the league, I think there are things that he learned last year that have made him a better player. I think by coming as a coach, I have tried to challenge him just to be better in the areas that he wanted to be better at. And to be honest with you, I was totally okay with him watching the movie when we sat down and talked about the areas he wanted to improve on. And I think he has been very, very good at cooperating and listening to my message. “

Messaging is fully connected when it comes to wanting to win. Donovan and LaVine share it equally and with passion. It is a relationship in its initial part, the possibilities seem endless as long as stability remains at stake.

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