Bulls’ Zach LaVine frustrated with Billy Donovan’s bench decision

Coaches make decisions that they believe are best for the team. If they appear during the game, they should only try to win this competition.

When Billy Donovan benched Zach LaVine for the final 3 minutes, 43 seconds of the Chicago Bulls’ fourth straight loss on Friday night, Donovan wasn’t thinking about the impact on the bigger picture.

But make no mistake: there are many.

This is a two-time All-Star in the first season of a five-year, $215 million contract, the ultimate status symbol in the league. This is one of the team’s best players, someone who maintains ultimate confidence in his superior goal-scoring ability even as he weathers an unsightly night of 1v14 shooting.

This is one of the faces of the franchise.

“It’s Billy’s choice. He has to put up with it,” said an obviously frustrated LaVine. “Am I okay with that? no I think I can go out there and still be myself even if I miss a few shots. But that’s his choice. He has to stand by that.

“I missed a lot of shots, man. But I’ve had a lot of games where I’ve been terrible and in four or five minutes I can get 15, 16 points. I just couldn’t take the next shot.”

That’s because Donovan sent Ayo Dosunmu on the scorers’ list to replace LaVine, who became the sixth Bull in franchise history to shoot 1-for-14 or worse, and the first since Toni Kukoc in 1999.

When asked if he planned to speak to Donovan about the decision, LaVine paused.

“I don’t know,” LaVine said. “I’ll find out afterwards.”

When asked what he would say if he chooses to do so, LaVine, who was minus 19 and also looked a step slow defensively while continuing to work on finding his rhythm following offseason knee surgery, held again inside

“You’re probably asking what his decision was that made him think that way,” LaVine said. “Obviously he wanted to go with some other guys. I didn’t have the best night of shooting. But it’s a difficult question.”

That’s exactly the reason Donovan offered.

“He had a tough night shooting and I thought this group really got back into the game,” Donovan said, citing Dosunmu, DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green, Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso. “I played DeMar the whole second half. He seemed physically fine.

“I came back to Zach and it was one of those games for him. He just didn’t have a great game. Great players, that happens. The team is very important to him. He just didn’t play well.”

Donovan has long been known as a player-manager who communicates well and directly. He’s had close relationships with veterans and stars in the past, and his working relationship with LaVine to this point is no exception.

But such a decision, even if Donovan isn’t thinking about long-term implications right now, will test the relationship.

“I’m sure he’s really disappointed. He’s a really, really competitive guy. I really enjoy working with him every day. He cares about the team. I know how much he puts into it and how much it means to him,” Donovan said. “The implications of him not being out there, for me, I was trying to do what was best for our team at that moment.

“That is my job and my responsibility. I thought that was the best decision at the time. For me, I don’t see it as anything other than a one-off game. I know he wanted to be out there. There probably aren’t many games in his career that he hasn’t played in those minutes. But this group played well.”

The night started so well. LaVine’s son Saint attended his first home game, a moment documented by the team’s social media account.

It ended up being frustrating, both on a team and personal level.

“It is a difficult decision. Of course I want to be there. That’s why I’m here. Get out there and be Zach LaVine. But it’s the coach’s decision. I can’t just run out and jump on the court even if I want to,” LaVine said. “It’s difficult. But that’s why he’s the coach. He makes these decisions.

“Of course I have to do a better job at the beginning of the game. I have to take my shots. But you play a guy like me on the track That’s what I do. Do I like the decision? no do I have to live with it? Yes, and be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.”

That’s Monday against the defending Eastern Conference champions Boston Celtics. Buckle up.

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