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Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s fire, there’s a chance it can burn everything down.
But in spite the trade report with regards to Zach LaVine, Billy Donovan doesn’t think things are at that level.
“I think you just try to come in every single day and you go to work,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s got a job to do, just like I do, and the rest of the team does, everybody else and you’ve got to put your best foot forward.”
The Bulls still have a job to do, and it’s Donovan’s priority to make sure things stay on track, even if roster turnover is imminent.
“What you try to do is make sure that everybody’s been playing in a way that is going to give us the best opportunity to be successful,” Donovan said pre-game. “I think he’s done that up to this point, I haven’t seen anything other than that. He’s always been coachable. He’s been a guy that you can go to and talk to.”
Despite reports that LaVine has not forgotten last year’s benching against the Orlando Magic in a 1-of-14 shooting game, none of this is to say that the coach and star player’s relationship is broken beyond repair. Donovan said he visited LaVine multiple times this past summer in Los Angeles and that each party has put in the work to their relationship.
“I spent quite a bit of time with Zach this summer, and went out two different times to LA and visited with him,” he said. “He’s great. He’s always been very welcoming when I’ve come out there. We’ve always had really, really good conversations. He’s always responsive to text messages and phone calls and things like that. So I’ve not seen anything where it’s like, okay, this guy has really pushed himself all the way over here and he’s just totally disconnected from everybody. I have not seen that at all.”
Donovan said LaVine did not come to him and ask for a trade. So until then, it’s one foot in front of the other. Both parties will continue to have to coexist, problem solve and confront issues as they arise. It’s what’s best for the team, and LaVine as his play and attitude will now surely be under the keen eye of potential suitors.
“Arturas and I talk all the time,” Donovan said. “When stuff like that comes up that’s like really, really, really important is something that’s potentially going to happen, he’s always been great about getting my opinion on it. Everything else for us has been for going forward, it’s been like what we can do to help the team.”
Any potential trade could take months to resolve. The Bulls could be in for an rough stretch here if they succumb to the awkwardness rather than showing up for work every day.
So for now, the path forward is trying to win ball games. Based on Donovan and LaVine’s response to questioning following the trade news, it does not seem that LaVine will coast through his last weeks on the job after putting in his two weeks notice.
With two games against the Magic on the schedule, we’ll have a good chance to see whether the Bulls are seriously able to take a step forward despite the drama.
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