If you want to get Billy Donovan going, ask him about the tired subject matter that Zach LaVine is an "empty calories" scorer.
"He is the ultimate team guy," Donovan said. "He just tries to play the right way."
Donovan said this after LaVine didn't force shots in the Chicago Bulls' blowout victory of the Pistons. LaVine, who entered eighth in the NBA with a 26.2 points per game scoring average, took just 10 shots while scoring 10 points, his lowest output of the season.
But LaVine, who didn't play the fourth quarter, added nine rebounds and seven assists.
"I think he realizes there's probably a little bit more help around him than maybe he has had with Vooch and DeMar (DeRozan)," Donovan said, using Nikola Vucevic's nickname. "He's really a great teammate. He's a great guy. He wants to win. He wants to do the right things. I just have a lot of respect and admiration for the way he approaches every day, just professionally. He's great to work with. He's great to be around. A game like today speaks to me of his greatness.
"He can go hunt shots because he can get his shot any time he wants to. But he really is very, very much invested in winning. He's very much invested in the team. And he wants to do things that are sustainable for a long time."
Donovan was just warming up. He grew most forceful when debunking the theory that LaVine is more concerned about statistics than winning.
"For a good portion of his career, maybe there's been some teams that he's been on that maybe haven't been quite good enough to win. But since I've been here in Chicago with him, it's really important to him," Donovan said. "He really, really, really wants to win. And whatever he has to do to help the team to win, he'll do. If it's playing defense, if it's blocking a shot, if it's grabbing a rebound, he's really, really invested in trying to figure out how he can help the team."
LaVine never has appeared in the playoffs. He won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were held last summer. This is the first season LaVine ever has had the same coach for two full seasons.
"He is as great of a guy as you can imagine being around," Donovan said. "And I know people see the athleticism and the running and the jumping and the talent and the skill. But people have no idea what kind of person he is. They have no idea how unselfish he is, how important his teammates are to him. Maybe some of his stats had looked like that in the past. But he has had to learn too. With all the talent he's been blessed with, he could sit there and say, 'Listen, just give me the ball and let me play.' He really wants to figure out how to make the group better.
"Maybe in the past with some of the teams, the points can be viewed as meaningless because they didn't win. But that's not a reflection on him. Just being around him for a year and a half, I've seen a side of him from the beginning that he really wants to win."