All expectations are that coach Billy Donovan will be back Monday for the game against the Magic at the United Center.
Donovan entered the health and safety protocols before Christmas, testing the depth of the coaching staff.
Much like the players did during the coronavirus surge, the coaching staff passed with flying colors.
Assistant Chris Fleming was the acting head coach during Donovan’s five-game absence, and he said Saturday that the lessons he learned in that short time were invaluable.
“It’s been humbling, for sure, in the sense that you realize how big the job is and how many people are dependent on you being prepared and doing the right thing,” Fleming said. “It’s also been extremely enjoyable to figure things out as a staff and interact with the players in maybe a little different way than you do as an assistant.
“For me on a very personal level, it’s been super-valuable in terms of helping me learn. The players have been great partners in helping during this time while Billy’s out.”
The feeling was mutual from the players, who have praised Fleming for the preparation he puts into every game and for being himself rather than trying to take on a different persona in that role.
Fleming was considered a tough-love assistant and has maintained that style.
“I think everybody is who they are as a coach, who you are as a person,” Fleming said. “I think you’re going to slide over with your personality however you happen to be, good, bad or indifferent, and all of us have strengths and weaknesses. I try not to change very much moving over, but I do think these guys deserve a lot of praise for how they handled these last few weeks.”
Fleming also praised his fellow assistants, as well as Donovan.
Donovan might not have been around, but he definitely made it a point to keep as similar a routine as possible with his staff on Zoom calls.
With all the emotion that was unleashed after DeMar DeRozan’s last-second, game-winning shot Friday against the Pacers, Donovan even made an extra call before the game against the Wizards.
“We talk, Coach is in our meetings when we talk on Zoom every morning,” Fleming said. “We pretty much have the same rhythm we always would in terms of rotations and game strategy. Obviously, he can’t be there after that meeting. He kind of gives it over to us to take care of our stuff.
“He did address the team [Saturday] morning on Zoom and really told them how proud he was of their resiliency [Friday] night. So Coach is involved, but for obvious reasons, there’s a certain point where he lets us take care of things.”
The Bulls were down yet another starter against the Wizards. Javonte Green tweaked his groin against the Pacers and was forced out of the back-to-back. The plan was to get him back to Chicago and have him re-evaluated Sunday.
The Bulls took a light travel party on the road trip, so they wanted to get him looked at properly before giving a timeline on a return.
The news was better for the players in the health and safety protocols. Fleming said Lonzo Ball and Alfonzo McKinnie were expected back against the Magic. Tony Bradley was close but had not started the cardio screening.