NEW YORK — There were no tents assembled, no elephants standing on two legs, not a clown in sight.
Yet the Bulls found themselves on a ”circus trip” they thought no longer existed on their schedule. They can thank the Nets for that.
Hours before the Bulls’ 108-99 victory Tuesday at Barclays Center, a turbulent Nets season turned into flat-out chaos.
Already dealing with the enigmatic Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving defending an antisemitic movie/book and the fallout from Kevin Durant demanding a trade over the summer, the Nets fell into even deeper turmoil by announcing that they had parted ways with coach Steve Nash.
Then to add to the craziness, multiple reports had the Nets already moving toward hiring Ime Udoka, whom the Celtics suspended for the entire season in the wake of an investigation into misconduct allegations by a female staffer.
Nets general manager Sean Marks met with the media before the game and did his best bob-and-weave.
Marks first tried spinning it as a mutual parting of ways with Nash, then tried to deny that Udoka was all but certain to be hired as the Nets’ next coach.
”There’s a reason why we made this move [on Nash] when we did because time is ticking,” Marks said. ”So we do want this [hiring] process to be a thorough one. We’re not going to skip steps on that, and we’ll do our due diligence.”
Just another night in the drama-filled NBA? Nah, this was a little much.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan coached Durant for a season with the Thunder and knows Nash a bit. And while he didn’t want to get involved in the Nets’ business, it did hit home for him.
”It’s unfortunate with Steve because I really, really like Steve,”’ Donovan said. ”Steve knows the game very well. Probably one of the brightest point guards ever to play the game.”
As for Durant, Donovan spoke about how detailed and focused he was but couldn’t even guess at the emotions he has been feeling the last few months.
”He was just locked in always,” Donovan said. ”He sees the game in a very, very holistic way. For me to sit here and say what that was like for him here, I just don’t know. I wish people could see the way this guy works.
”But you have so much on your own plate, and it’s hard for me — just being in the NBA and seeing this — you don’t know what’s going on inside someone’s house.”
Especially because Donovan was trying to make sure his own house was in order. Not off the court, but on it.
Short-handed on the bench without big man Andre Drummond (shoulder) and guard Coby White (left thigh), the Bulls were hanging around through three quarters but didn’t seem as though they had the gear to make a move.
Then Zach LaVine took the wheel and shoved the gas pedal to the floor in the fourth, erupting for 20 of his 29 points as the Bulls took the lead and never looked back.
It was by far LaVine’s best game of the season, and even he couldn’t downplay that. He did try, however, especially when he was asked whether he felt as though he had something to prove with the max contract he signed in the offseason.
”I’ve been doing this for a while,” LaVine said. ”Don’t matter if you have a [max] contract or not . . . whatever I can do to help the team. Some nights it’s DeMar [DeRozan], some nights it’s [Nikola Vucevic], some nights it’s me. I was glad I was able to step in and fill that role like we have in the past.”