Nothing was imminent.
That was the feeling from Billy Donovan on Monday.
Whether the Bulls coach will be feeling that same way on Tuesday? Welcome to NBA trade deadline week, where nothing imminent on Monday, could turn into some new nameplates on lockers by Thursday, especially for a team that continues to come up short against top-level talent as the Bulls did in the 120-95 loss to the Jazz.
“There’s more and more phone calls probably taking place amongst the league, amongst all these executives, but I think the one thing that’s great is I trust [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] is going to make any kind of decision that’s always going to try and help our team better, and he’s included me on all those decisions and we’ve talked about all those things,” Donovan said, when asked about the communication he’s been having with his bosses lately. “Nothing has come across from Arturas to me about, ‘Hey this is a solid deal, and this is out there, we’ve got to make a decision on this. What do you think?’ That hasn’t taken place. Obviously those things could happen getting closer to the date, but I think Arturas is always going to be constantly looking at, ‘How can we improve the team?’ ”
An easy question with difficult answers.
First the Bulls have to decide what’s realistic for them this season. Considering the last week, and then the showing against Utah on Monday, limping into a play-in game and hoping to get hot for at least one playoff series might be the best-case scenario.
And a lot would have to go right for them if the roster stays as is.
Yes, beating up on the likes of a Detroit like they did on Sunday was appreciated, but also very expected. Where the Bulls (19-23) continue to fall short is against plus-.500 teams, where they are now 0-9 since Feb.10, against those caliber teams.
It doesn’t help when the home team allows Rudy Gobert to come a block short of his first-career triple-double, while Lauri Markkanen – the expected second-best scorer on the Bulls – goes 3-for-12 for just eight points.
Factor in more inconsistent defense and a poor shooting night from three-point range (6-for-26), and even 27 from Zach LaVine wasn’t going to make this one close.
“Great defensive team with [Gobert] at the rim,” Markkanen said. “We just got stagnant. A rough night, these kind of things happen. It just wasn’t going in [Monday], and that’s just the game.”
So would it make more sense to try and acquire draft assets at the expense of winning games? Another option that is out there, but also requires a dance partner.
“Any time there’s deals to be done it takes two parties to make it work,” Donovan said. “It’s got to make sense for us and probably for the other team.”
But what if the Bulls have a chance to add players that will instantly improve the starting unit? Could they be buyers that are willing to give up draft assets and depth to grab a Lonzo Ball from New Orleans and finally have a true lead guard since this rebuild started?
Definitely another option.
The problem with all those scenarios, however, is the posturing that’s currently taking place around the league.
There’s a reason deadline trades often come at the deadline. Teams want to wait for the best offer, but they also want to stay away from showing their hand too early, and letting another front office take advantage of that situation.
“Sometimes you put your cards on the table, a team can go to another team and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got this on the table,’ ” Donovan said. “So I think probably right now, it’s like a feeling out stage is the impression I get.”