Coach Billy Donovan placed the burden of a recent string of Chicago Bulls losses on the shoulders of their best players: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević.

The veteran starters are often the saving grace for the Bulls, producing over half of the team’s points per game. But as the Bulls continue to dig themselves into early deficits, Donovan demanded more from his All-Star trio ahead of Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic at the United Center.

“I’ve got a lot of respect on a lot of levels for Vooch and DeMar and Zach, but we’re never going to be as good as we can be as a team until those three guys really drive the opening part of the game,” Donovan said. “I don’t look at it as pressure on them. It’s just what we’ve got to do as a basketball team. That’s the expectation. That’s the standard. … I’m constantly asking more from them and I feel like they can handle that.”

The Bulls are the eighth-lowest scoring first-quarter team in the league, averaging 27.7 points. They have carved out a worrying pattern — the starters allow opponents to take an early lead, then the secondary unit comes off the bench to pull the Bulls back into contention.

The Bulls trailed 37-24 after one quarter Friday.

It’s an untenable trend. A strong bench can elevate a team from good to great, but not if it’s constantly playing catch-up to atone for the mistakes of the starting unit.

Donovan knows that if the Bulls want to win consistently, the change has to come from the starters.

“We’ve got to be able to respond better to start the game coming out of the locker room,” Donovan said. “There’s no work-around. For us to be the team we need to be, at the starting point, those three guys need to raise it up. They are the leaders of our team. They’re guys that … have been in the league for a long time. They’ve got to drive whatever it is: defense, offense, everything.”

Donovan pushed blame away from second-year point guard Ayo Dosunmu and third-year power forward Patrick Williams.

Both have struggled with inconsistencies in the early season — Dosunmu with his 3-point shooting and Williams with his lack of aggression. But Donovan placed the full burden of the team’s slow starts on its veteran starters.

Donovan believes LaVine, DeRozan and Vučević are intentional in their role as vocal locker-room …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Coach Billy Donovan demands more from Chicago Bulls stars Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević: ‘Those 3 guys need to raise it up’

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