Endorsements from the NBA’s elite are nice, but as Zach LaVine pointed out, talk is talk until the Bulls can live up to the hype.
“You can’t take that as a sign that we’re there yet,” the Bulls guard said, when hearing some recent comments from two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. “We still have to get the job done. I think we’re a better team and we’re going to continue to get better. Always having your peers’ respect is big, but you have to earn your respect as well.”
After the Nets beat the Bulls Tuesday night, Durant commented that he was “really a fan of this team.”
Sure, Durant was also coached by Billy Donovan back in their Oklahoma City days, so there remained a good connection there, but Durant isn’t one to throw out compliments just to go through the motions.
“Obviously, being coached by Billy and his staff, a few of those guys on his staff, I know exactly how those guys are approaching every day as a unit,” Durant said. “And you can just see it out on the floor.
“Having [Nikola] Vucevic come midseason, those guys trying to figure out who they are in such a fast pace, you know, the last 20 games of the season, so I feel like they’re going to figure it out even more going into next season. But they have a lot of talent, a lot of different guys that can do a variety of things. But Zach and Vuch and Coby [White] I feel like are the key pieces to this team — and Patrick Williams.”
Durant wasn’t the only veteran to give Donovan and the coaching staff a pat on the back for this season, despite where the Bulls currently sit in the standings.
Bulls forward Thad Young, who also isn’t one to mince words when it comes to a coaching staff and front office, spoke on Thursday about how much more open dialogue there has been this season compared to the Jim Boylen coaching staff and old front office.
“I think they’re receptive to things that we want to do as players,” Young said. “They want to continue to help guys grow and get better. But they’re coming each day with a winning mindset. And the only thing they believe in is winning. There’s no, ‘Oh, we’re just developing.’
“I love that about Billy and his staff. This year was more like a family as opposed to kind of like last year where guys felt like they weren’t listened to and everything was kind of off the wall a little bit. The coaches, they listen. We’re able to go in and talk to [executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas] AK and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] whenever we want to. It’s open line of communication everywhere, throughout the whole organization.”
Young did admit before the game with the Raptors that playing in a new role since the Vucevic trade was made at the deadline has been an adjustment for him.
“Obviously there’s some challenges there, just being able to figure out how to facilitate for the rest of the team and having ‘Vuch’ on the court with me doing different things, but I think it definitely can work,” Young said.
It’s that facilitating that has been the issue, as Young’s assist numbers have dropped a bit since the All-Star center was acquired from Orlando. Young averaged about 4.4 assists through March, and that dropped to 3.9 for the month of April.