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Bulls Rumors: HC Billy Donovan's Job Is Safe Despite Struggles After New Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 07: Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan looks on during a NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls on December  7, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan is "safe" despite the team's 12-18 record this season, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania and Darnell Mayberry.

The report referenced "increased skepticism within the locker room about the head coach and the coaching staff," but it apparently isn't enough to put Donovan in jeopardy. The Bulls confirmed in November they had signed the coach to an extension before the season tipped off.

Firing Donovan in the near future would be scapegoating him to some degree because he isn't responsible for a few of the biggest reasons Chicago finds itself in this position.

Lonzo Ball has yet to play this season and may not suit up at all after undergoing knee surgery. Ball's presence is sorely missed on defense, and he's the kind of facilitator who can maximize Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan on offense.

Speaking of LaVine, Donovan isn't the one who handed the two-time All-Star a five-year, $215.2 million contract in July.

The Bulls had their backs against the wall because they couldn't afford to let LaVine leave for nothing in free agency, but his knee surgery in May presented a clear warning sign. The 27-year-old is averaging 21.7 points and shooting 36.5 percent from beyond the arc, both his lowest output since 2017-18.

Charania and Mayberry also reported on discord between LaVine and DeRozan and that "sources close to the organization say LaVine and the Bulls are not seeing eye to eye."

The Nikola Vučević trade is another move Chicago would probably like a mulligan on. Not only is the difference between Vučević and Wendell Carter Jr. negligible, but the Bulls also lost out on the opportunity to select Franz Wagner in the 2021 NBA draft and could see their 2023 first-rounder head to the Orlando Magic.

It's plausible a different head coach could yield better results on the court, and extending Donovan was odd when he still had two years to run on his initial contract.

Ricky O'Donnell @SBN_Ricky

It gets weirder and weirder with every passing week that the Bulls gave Billy Donovan a super secret extension for absolutely no reason

The 57-year-old is 332-252 as an NBA head coach, and he has advanced past the first round once in six playoff trips. The second coming of Gregg Popovich he is not.

But firing Donovan isn't likely to solve bigger problems for the organization. With Vučević set to hit free agency and DeRozan out of contract in 2024, the Bulls might be either stuck treading water with a flawed roster or heading toward a rebuild.