CLEVELAND --- After yet another dispiriting and desultory loss late Thursday night in New York, Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan acknowledged that he sounded “like a broken record” when raising his team’s habit of playing with a lack of urgency and inconsistency.
Enter Russell Westbrook?
On Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on “NBA Today” that the Bulls would be “a front-runner” to land Westbrook should the high-motor guard hit the buyout market as expected following his trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Utah Jazz.
While the Los Angeles Clippers also are expected to enter the potential race to land Westbrook and are viewed by some league observers to be a favorite as well, Wojnarowski spelled out the Bulls’ advantages.
“One team you’ve got to watch and will be a front-runner is the Chicago Bulls,” he said on ESPN’s “NBA Today.” “Billy Donovan, their head coach, certainly coached Westbrook in Oklahoma City. And go further down his bench---Mo Cheeks, Josh Longstaff. There’s a staff of former OKC assistants who all had good relationships and worked well with Westbrook. With the Bulls, you can certainly see how he fits just bringing some energy and some fire to that team’s bench.”
Donovan coached Westbrook for four of his five seasons with the Thunder before the franchise traded Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and draft compensation.
As a career 30.4 percent 3-point shooter, Westbrook wouldn’t solve the Bulls’ outside shooting woes. And his defensive play has slid over his 15-year career.
But one thing nobody can call into question is Westbrook’s motor and intensity. Donovan has consistently praised it, even raising it in various news conferences during his tenure as Bulls’ coach.
Executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas said the Bulls planned to look at the buyout market after he didn’t make a trade in advance of Thursday’s deadline. The Bulls would have to waive a player to add anybody from the buyout market because they have 15 guaranteed contracts.
They also sit roughly $1.7 million under the luxury tax and only have paid that once in franchise history. So any potential signee off the buyout market would almost certainly have to agree to a prorated deal that keeps the Bulls under the tax.
Donovan burned a timeout less than 3 minutes after Thursday’s tipoff in the Bulls’ eventual loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
“I thought their energy and intensity was better than ours to start the game,” Donovan said.
If the Bulls land Westbrook, who knows if he’d start? But whenever he entered, the energy and intensity would be present.