NEW YORK – Billy Donovan doesn’t do self-praise very well.
So of course he was uncomfortable on Thursday, when he was asked about being named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for the games played late in October and all the way through November.
“I think anytime you are in a team setting and there is any kind of acknowledgement per se, I think it’s always a reflection of the coaching staff and the players and the organization, in my opinion,’’ Donovan said. “The players are the ones who do it out there on the court.’’
Donovan was the fifth Bulls coach to receive a coach of the month honor, joining Doug Collins, Phil Jackson, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Skiles. Thibodeau led the group, receiving the honor six times.
“Obviously I’m very humbled by it and honored by it, but I also realize without the players and the staff, I just happened to be the one being recognized, but to me it’s really a recognition of our team,’’ Donovan said.
What Donovan can’t duck out of the way of, however, is he not only inherited an almost new roster, but a roster that’s had to face some challenges through the first 21 games of the season.
He’s had to get them acclimated playing with each other, but also deal with a roster that has had a share of moving parts.
Second-year forward Patrick Williams was lost early with torn ligaments in his wrist, Nikola Vucevic was lost for seven games courtesy of the coronavirus, and Coby White missed the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, only to return and then also get hit with a positive coronavirus test.
Donovan has not only been able to overcome those hiccups, but also has the Bulls playing defense at a high level compared to last season.
“I think that it speaks to maybe what I have been talking about from Day 1, the willingness of these guys to come back into Chicago after Labor Day to get to work with each other,’’ Donovan said. “I think the work they put in during training camp, the fact that we knew it was an entirely new group and an entirely new team, and we were starting from scratch. You know there were a lot of teams, especially in the East, that have a lot of continuity and consistency and have been together. And we’re one of those teams that hasn’t, and we tried to expedite some of those growing pains.’’
Like he was when Vucevic was isolated with the coronavirus, Donovan continued checking in with White since he tested positive on Wednesday.
According to Donovan, White had very little symptoms and was just riding it out. The hope is obviously he can be back sooner than later.
“Trying to be there for Coby, same way with Vooch when he was out,’’ guard Alex Caruso said. “It’s unfortunate, especially because he was just starting to catch his rhythm again, starting to get into the flow of the game coming back from offseason surgery.’’
Thanks to a brutal November schedule, practice time was very hard to come by for Donovan’s crew the last month.
That changed this week, as the Bulls were able to get a solid practice in on Wednesday to fix some defensive miscues, and will have a practice in New York on Friday to continue smoothing out some bumps.
“It’s a necessary evil to getting better, necessary to improve on things that you can’t do live in games,’’ Caruso said. “You need reps doing stuff to make sure you can implement it into games.’’
Source by chicago.suntimes.com