The Bulls have checked out because they know that's fine
why bother when there's no accountability?
We have not seen what rock bottom looks like with Arturas Karnisovas in charge. Though his teams have certainly hit obscene lows before, he’s never offered anything but spin, happy talk, and delusional self-assessment. And those are just the words, we know there’s never any meaningful actions.
The Bulls have gone 2-7 since I wrote that Billy Donovan needs to coach more urgently to win games against a fairly easy schedule. They’re 0-3 (and none in particularly-close “competitive losses”, either) since I declared the season a failure after the team’s highest-paid player asked out.
Upcoming is an actually-daunting schedule, starting Tuesday against the Celtics. It’s not even looking possible that the Bulls will catch a better team napping and AK can spin that as progress, since there are In Season Tournament implications in that matchup (not for the Bulls, they’re already eliminated).
At what point will Karnisovas address this disaster? Though it’s worse because continuity is supposed to mean good starts, they’ve still only played 18 games, and historically that hasn’t been enough for any acknowledgement. Merely 23 games post-AllStarGame-garbageseason was enough for AK to talk positively about his squad, so maybe after then? Probably still unlikely, because earlier in that season before that magical stretch, they were at-worst 11-17 (after giving up 150 points to the Timberwolves), ultimately climbed to 26-28 by the trade deadline, and did nothing.
That is why I consider KC Johnson’s column today to have a thesis that is entirely backwards:
Artūras Karnišovas’ has been given the green light to try to fix the current mess. Billy Donovan is safe.
That leaves the burden of change falling on the players. And they know it.
Totally wrong, and we’re seeing it on the court: the players know that there IS NO burden of change at all, and they’re playing like it.
Billy Donovan is an empty suit, an eloquent and knowledgeable color commentator who just tells everyone what needs to be done and we’re all trying to find the guy who should try and do something about it.
The team continually starts games unprepared (or in a bizarro situation like Sunday in Brooklyn, start great then fall into bad habits), and often shows lack of effort and falls into bad individual habits. And sure, the roster is mismanaged and any tactical change is unlikely to do much. But Donovan’s not doing above the bare minimum when his only moves are to bench Patrick Williams or yell at Ayo Dosunmu.
Meanwhile, Donovan is playing Nikola Vucevic 37 minutes when the opposing team has no center (Nets had several rotation players out last night) and moving him out on the floor to be torched every goddamned procession. Donovan famously was the coach in OKC who coined “Can’t Play Kanter” when given an immobile offense-first big man before.
Vuc won’t be DNP’d, but he should be Bogans’d. He’s unsurprisingly aged rapidly and his shooting has gone from not-quite-making-up-for-it on the other end to outright disastrous and unplayable. Andre Drummond is an unserious player, but he can soak up a bit more tick and then you run small-ball for longer stretches, even if that means lineups without any “double double machine” (the horror).
But instead, with no actual accountability from the coach, we get Vuc post-game, like usual, blaming everyone but himself.
And when Zach LaVine literally (if indirectly) asks off the team, Donovan only has praise for LaVine’s professionalism.
It’s obvious that Donovan should be fired, and only hasn’t been because he has contract security. But what use is that security if he can’t impose more on the players? What is the point of having a “star player friendly” coach on a team with no stars?
And in lieu of cutting minutes, how is a threat of being on a different team any “burden” on the players? For one thing, it’s proven to be not likely to happen soon because Karnisovas refuses to assess or admit mistakes and has dithered with nearly every decision he’s made since taking the job.
But the more obvious point: ultimately these guys all want off the team anyway! They have contract security too, and if not with the Bulls can get another with another, probably more serious, NBA team. It’s actually on those that remain to wear the failures.