Billy Donovan calls the Bulls to defend physically on the edge

Billy Donovan has never shied away from describing his Chicago Bulls players’ lack of physical fitness when he sees him.

He sees it now.

“We have to put our bodies into play,” the Bulls coach said before Thursday’s 126-109 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, their 10th defeat in 13 games. “Sometimes we just didn’t do well enough to throw our bodies in there. Perpendicular to the ledge. Take charge. Do something physically (to offer) some resistance.”

The questioning line that generated this answer came a day after Jimmy Butler, Eric Spoelstra and Odonis Haslem got into a heated in-game exchange during the Heat’s Wednesday night loss to the Warriors. Donovan said the Bulls have had a “showdown” on tough times this season, but it has mostly stayed behind closed doors. And it was mostly limited to conversations about, for example, poor ball movement or poor transfer defense. These topics led to a constructive dialogue.

But he said the need for a more courageous approach to protecting the edge did not.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily coming from men who won’t speak up,” Donovan added. “I think guys talk. But these things we should start talking about more. These things need more confrontation.”

There is no denying that the Dinovan speaking Donovan is a problem. The Bulls’ 4-10 record since the All-Star break comes equipped with a defensive rating of 117.2, 24 in the NBA in that span.

And while counts drawn don’t necessarily mean a strong defense, the team also ranks 24th in that category on the season, having bagged 22 in total. Alex Caruso leads the way with six draws, despite playing in less than half of the Bulls’ games, while Jafonte Green has three charges, Kobe White, Nikola Vucevich and Tyler Cook have two, and the rest of the list has one or less.

From a perspective perspective, the Eastern Conference’s leading Miami Heat ranked first in the league with a draw of 103, and has four players in doubles (Kyle Lowry, Max Strauss, DeWayne Deadmon, BJ Tucker).

“If you look at all those really good teams, there is a physical confrontation in the paint. We have to be more confrontational in the paint,” Donovan said. But, you know, we can be positional in place, you know, we’re taking this on our chest now.”

The flip side is when physicality approaches recklessness. Take the swan game as an example. The New Orleans Bulls fouled 24 times and allowed 34 free throw attempts per season.

“Some of the mistakes we made are unnecessary,” Donovan said after the match. “Running in people. Just put your hands up, and you slap when you get the chance to make the guy finish his shot. Just maybe (lack of) composure, carelessness.”

Whatever the case, Donovan says he and the coaching staff are taking it upon themselves to put that dynamic into players’ minds, as it will be important at the time of the supplement.

“This was our biggest challenge against those high-quality teams that you talk about, who have height, size and physical strength,” Donovan said. “Like, listen, you’re not running away with Giannis (Antetokounmpo). He’s coming at you. You have a choice or two, get out of the way, or stick your nose in there. And we have to put our noses into a lot of those plays in my opinion.”

“Watching the movie, I think it’s all the way. Because, you know, they (the opponents) put their noses in there.”

Can bulls draw that from within themselves? Time will tell.

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