NEW YORK – Billy Donovan really likes this Bulls basketball team as currently constructed.
The coach has made that very clear, even going back to last season.
In Donovan’s estimation, he knows exactly what they are, and he feels like they continue to improve, despite the 26-28 record in this 2022-23 campaign.
“We know the things we need to get better at,” Donovan said. “When you’ve played 50 games, it’s hard to say you don’t know who you are.”
More importantly, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas might like the roster even more than Donovan, which said a lot.
Further evidence that the Bulls could be very quiet come Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, and if anything might be buyers over sellers on a minor level.
“You mean blow the whole thing up? I don’t see [that],” Donovan said after the Tuesday loss to Memphis. “The way I would look at it from my perspective is I know that I really, really like our guys a lot in terms of working with them, and where the heart and the spirit is at. And I think Arturas likes this group better. As much as I do, I think he likes them too. He wants to continually see these guys get better.
“I would say this: You and your wife go buy a house. ‘This is our dream house … we’re never going to …’ and then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Hey, this is what they’re going to give us.’ If some team came with something – and we like our guys – that’s just, ‘Geez this is too good.’ I don’t know if those conversations happened, but I think Arturas is going to look. That’s why I’m saying it’s just not about the player, it’s about the totality of the organization and what’s best for the organization.”
As of Wednesday, the feeling around the league was what the Bulls deem was best for their organization was staying the course with most of the current foundation pieces.
A source did say that there have been a lot of phone calls made to Karnisovas, but the asking prices on players remained extremely high. Posturing as the deadline draws near? Absolutely, but as Donovan pointed out, the “dream house” comes with a high cost.
From a financial standpoint, the rotation players that the Bulls have to make contract decisions on after the season were Nikola Vucevic [unrestricted free agent] and Coby White [restricted free agent]. So if they were looking to try and accumulate assets rather than letting players simply walk, Vucevic and White would be the likely players to go.
However, teams have inquired about White since last summer, and a source reiterated that the Bulls want a lot back for the streaky shooting reserve guard.
As far as Vucevic, he threw a slight curveball into the equation on Tuesday, telling the Sun-Times that he would like to stay a Bull and get a contract extension. Prior to that, Vucevic would take the high road when asked questions about his pending free agency, insisting that he would worry about that after the season.
According to Vucevic, it now sounds like there has been dialogue about his future, with Karnisovas first wanting to see how this season ended.
“Hopefully we can work something out that would be great,” Vucevic said. “It makes sense that they want to first see how this all works out, how we do, how we finish the season.”
So what exactly will the Bulls look like when they take the court against the Nets hours after the deadline passes on Thursday?
Zach LaVine didn’t seem overly concerned.
“Whoever is here, I’ll ride with them,” LaVine said. “Play my heart out for those guys on the court. Same answer as always: I don’t do anything but play basketball, and I’m glad for that.”