CHICAGO — They’ve only played 48 minutes of basketball, but already there is drama surrounding the Bulls in the 2023-2024 season.
From an unhappy All-Star’s conversation with his coach to a players-only meeting after the game, Billy Donovan has a lot to deal with after just a single game.
“I had just walked in there to talk to them, and they were talking, and I said ‘Do you guys need space?’ and they just said ‘Yes,’ and I walked out,” said the head coach after the Bulls’ 124-104 season-opening loss to the Thunder at the United Center on Wednesday night.
That conversation that didn’t include Donovan was preceeded by one he did have on the bench with Nikola Vucevic after a technical foul in the third quarter that was caught by broadcast cameras.
“I was just unhappy with some of the stuff we were doing, I obviously expressed it a little bit, maybe a little more aggressive than I should have in that moment of the game,” said Vucevic. “Heat of the moment. You’re trying to win, trying to do what you can to help the team win.”
Yet Donovan doesn’t consider this bad. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
“I think the confrontation piece is really, really good. I think it’s really healthy and it needs to happen, as much as possible,” said Donovan when talking specifically about that discussion with the center.
All of this drama would seem to be something to avoid, but the head is encouraging difficult conversations in an effort to bolster the team for the 2023-2024 season. The majority of last year’s team, which finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs, returns for this year, and they had a different response to the loss to Oklahoma City.
“I will say the one thing I think was good with some of the heated conversations and confrontation is that would have never happened last year, ever,” said Donovan. “It would have been a quiet group. So the confrontation piece, I think, is a sign that it’s important to them and that they know there’s things that they’ve got to do better.”