Familiar coaches lead the way in Bulls vs. Thunder


Billy Donovan and Mark Daigneault have spent plenty of time talking about coaching philosophy and coming up with game plans.

Friday, they’ll square off against each other for the first time in the regular season when Donovan’s Chicago Bulls play at the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Daigneault is in his first year as head coach.

Donovan left the Thunder in the offseason after five seasons as head coach, walking away before Oklahoma City started a major roster overhaul with an eye toward rebuilding.

Eventually, the Thunder stayed in house and promoted Daigneault, who was an assistant under Donovan for four seasons at Florida and last year with the Thunder.

“I would never be in this career position had it not been for my time at Florida,” Daigneault said.

Daigneault predates Donovan in Oklahoma City, having left Donovan’s Florida Gators’ staff to coach the Thunder’s G League team in 2014, one year before Donovan made the move from college to the NBA. Daigneault coached in the G League for five seasons.

“He’s a guy that works hard to formulate his opinions and his thoughts,” Donovan told The Oklahoman. “He has his beliefs, and as coaches you’re not always going to agree on everything, but you have these heated discussions. … Not yelling or screaming, but you’re always going back and forth trying to find ways to make the team better. I always enjoyed that part with him.”

Both teams enter Friday’s game needing a turnaround.

The Bulls have dropped three consecutive games, allowing an average of 125 points per game during the stretch and are near the bottom in the league in defensive rating.

A big part of that has been turnovers.

Chicago has turned the ball over a league-worst 17.0 times per game.

While Chicago will still be a bit short-handed with Chandler Hutchison and Tomas Satoransky remaining out due to COVID-19 protocols, it will get some reinforcements.

Lauri Markkanen and Ryan Arcidiacono are expected back after missing seven consecutive games due to COVID exposure. Arcidiacono missed the two previous games as well.

The absences have been particularly challenging on guards Zach LaVine and Coby White. LaVine has averaged 39.8 minutes per game over the last four while White is averaging 38.2.

“The guys have done a great job of battling and competing and fighting,” Donovan said. “I don’t particularly love the number of minutes Zach and Coby are getting, but we’ve been dealt with that hand.”

Otto Porter Jr. could return for the Bulls after suffering back spasms in last Friday’s loss to the Lakers and missing the game against the Clippers.

The Thunder have dropped consecutive games and are 0-5 at home for the first time since they moved to Oklahoma City. The Thunder has forced just 14 turnovers over the last two games, their worst in a two-game stretch since early in the 2016-17 season.

Al Horford figures to return for the Thunder after missing Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers for rest on the second end of a back-to-back. Darius Bazley suffered a right ankle sprain in Wednesday’s loss and is questionable for the game.

–Field Level Media


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