Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan says coach Billy Donovan is right man for job
Not only does DeRozan think the Bulls have one of the top coaches in the NBA, but he said Donovan might be the best coach he has had at any level.
LOS ANGELES — Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan knows a little bit about great coaches.
After all, he was raised in the league by former Raptors coach Dwane Casey, then spent a few seasons under the tutelage of future Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich.
And in his Team USA experience in 2016, DeRozan was coached by Mike Krzyzewski and worked with a staff made up of Jim Boeheim, Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams.
‘‘I think I have an idea of what I’m talking about,’’ a smirking DeRozan said when talking about coaching.
That’s why DeRozan is a bit confused about why Bulls coach Billy Donovan is so ‘‘underappreciated.’’
DeRozan isn’t a big social-media guy, but he has seen some of the criticisms of Donovan expressed by the Bulls’ fan base and wanted to set the record straight.
‘‘Man, you know what’s crazy? He’s definitely underrated, underappreciated on the outside,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘He’s easygoing, and as much as he’s locked into the game and pays attention to the small things, it’s incredible. His play-calling, his schemes — he puts a lot into the game that too many people don’t see.’’
In fact, DeRozan compared Donovan to Thibodeau in terms of his attention to detail. That’s high praise, considering Thibodeau’s reputation for knowing the tendencies of every NBA player and, according to DeRozan from his experience with him in the Olympics, those ‘‘from places I’ve never heard of.’’
That’s why DeRozan was so quick to praise Donovan.
‘‘It’s always easy to criticize somebody when we don’t execute or make it go right, but he’s a helluva worker, a workaholic,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘His IQ of the game is definitely there. To be honest, one of my favorite coaches of all time, not just in the NBA, but going back to high school, college, wherever.’’
And DeRozan isn’t alone in his opinion. Point guard Patrick Beverley didn’t know that much about Donovan before joining the Bulls, but he has raved about the details in his game-planning.
Donovan, however, doesn’t have an ego. Maybe that’s why the fan base hasn’t been all-in on him. He’s not a self-promoter and doesn’t have an over-the-top personality. A lot of his emotion is expressed behind closed doors.
Still, ownership and the front office saw enough of Donovan in his first two seasons with the Bulls to give him a contract extension last fall — a move that didn’t sit well with his critics.
Here’s what those critics are missing, however: For the Bulls to have been without injured Lonzo Ball for the last 1½ seasons and for DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic — not exactly defensive stoppers — to be playing respectable defense now says something.
Donovan was handed a flawed roster. The Bulls lack outside shooting and rim protection and, before Beverley’s arrival, were unwilling to run through an opposing screen and put an opponent on the ground.
Donovan finally has them playing more to an identity — one he can embrace.
‘‘I like the toughness, the competitiveness,’’ Donovan said of where the Bulls are. ‘‘To me, I love teams like that. People may have different opinions or perceptions of Patrick Beverley, but I love guys who are at 10 [in terms of intensity].
‘‘I had Joakim Noah [at Florida]. I had [Udonis] Haslem. I know they were college guys, but it was always at 10. There’s a lot of merit when you have guys that, over 82 games, can come in and raise that intensity level. I think that’s what you have to do. The group has gotten better at some of that.’’
That’s a solid assessment, but it will mean very little if the Bulls don’t start having more success in terms of victories and losses.
That needs to be Donovan’s next step with the Bulls. He has shown he can coach guys into doing things outside their comfort zone, but he has to win more games.
Until that happens, criticism is warranted. Just don’t try to convince DeRozan of that.