Tomas Satoransky could have taken a couple different directions when Jim Boylen told him he’d be moving into a reserve role in favor of rookie Coby White.
He could have sulked or pouted. He could have kicked and screamed. After all, he chose the Bulls in free agency to be a full-time starter for the first time in his NBA career.
Or, he could do what he did Tuesday night — act and play professionally. And then make a critical impact late in the Bulls’ 108-103 victory over the Cavaliers to match last season’s paltry victory total of 22 games.
“I respected that because I kind of expected that, also. It was logical the way I’ve been playing since All-Star break and the way Coby has been playing,” Satoransky said of Boylen’s decision. “Sometimes that happens to you as a player. I’m just happy for him. He’s been helping us win the game. He’s been balling out. I felt like he deserved that chance.”
Satoransky has shot miserably since the New Year, connecting on just 22.4 percent in January, 28.1 percent in February and 18.2 percent this month from 3-point land. Nevertheless, his floor game has remained strong. His five assists marked the 44th time this season he has posted at least that many in a game, while his eight rebounds included a huge offensive one which he dished to Thad Young for a 3-pointer late.
“Sometimes, it affects your game,” Satoransky admitted about his slump. “The shot opens up a lot for me, opens up space. Now people are letting me shoot sometimes. That was kind of frustrating for me. I hope I can build from the second half I had. I always try to affect the game in different ways like rebounding and organizing the game.”
Satoransky said he plans to ditch the brace he has been wearing to protect a hyperextended thumb that he is quietly playing through, having never landed on the injury report. He and White are the only Bulls to play in every game.
This comes on the heels of him also playing a hugely prominent role for his Czech Republic national team at last offseason’s FIBA World Cup. Boylen said Satoransky never misses a practice and theorized that the load could finally be taking a toll on him.
“I’ve been starting since the beginning of the season, playing a lot of minutes, not taking days off. I kind of feel like the summer had something to do with it. It was a very physically tough summer with my national team where you basically play all the minutes and all the games are super emotional,” Satoransky said. “I have to be smart about it next summer and try to take some lessons from the season. Sometimes I’m forcing it too much. I’m not probably in that age where I can still let myself do this.
“I think inconsistent is one off the best words to describe it. There is a lot of up and down for me. Right now, it’s obviously affecting the way I’ve been underperforming since the All-Star break. I can’t be happy about it. I think it helps after the season is done to look at it from the bigger picture. I think I had some good moments. We’ve been playing great, me, KD (Kris Dunn) and Zach (LaVine) some of the games. I don’t like being inconsistent.”
His teammates like Satoransky’s professionalism.
“Nothing really had to be said. We have a strong enough relationship to move past it and keep doing what we're doing,” White said of Satoransky accepting his demotion. “At the end of the day, me and him both just want to win games. And Sato handled it like a professional, like a grown man, and hats off to him. I can't thank him enough for the way he handled it because a lot of people could have handled it differently.
“It may not always show up in the stat sheet, but Sato does a lot of little things for us that we need and he's willing to do. That's just who he is. He's a great player.”