Bulls Insider

Why Donovan demoted starters Williams, Dosunmu


SAN FRANCISCO --- To be clear, Billy Donovan’s decision to replace Ayo Dosunmu with Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams with Javonte Green in Friday night’s starting lineup wasn’t for defensive purposes against the potent Golden State Warriors.

“It was more to see, ‘Let’s see what this looks like,’” Donovan said following the Chicago Bulls’ 119-111 loss. “I’m always evaluating and you’re not trying to make a decision after two or three games. But I think there’s a pretty decent body of work for the number of games we played. And I just wanted to take a look at something different.”

And Donovan said he liked it. So while there are no long-term commitments, the new look is certainly something to expect for the immediate future.

“I understand there’s always a level of prestige with starting. I get all that. But I also think those guys see a bigger picture,” Donovan said of the demoted Dosunmu and Williams. “It’s not like I said to them, ‘Hey listen, I’m moving you out of the starting lineup and you’re out of the rotation.’ I was really pleased with the way both responded. They’re team guys. They want to win. I’m sure in their heart of hearts want to start. But I also think the team is more important to them.”

Indeed, both Dosunmu and Williams took the high road.

“I just took it as this is what it was. Try to continue to get better,” Dosunmu said. “My motto, whether I start or not, is each day I want to get 1 percent better. Nothing has really changed. I want to get better, keep learning at both ends.”

Added Williams: “I kind of expected it. Not necessarily the change that he made, but we haven’t been playing to the level that we know we need to play to. So obviously trying different lineups is just part of figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. I’m with whatever to win. Just trust the process and control what you can control as a player. I trust Billy and the coaching staff. I’m all for it if they think it can help the team.”

Dosunmu is a second-round pick who moved in and out of the starting lineup last season because of injuries and only was starting this season because Lonzo Ball remains sidelined.

Williams, on the other hand, is a fourth overall pick and represented the Bulls’ biggest hope for internal improvement. He started all 71 games his rookie season and all 21 games this season until Friday. He came off the bench eight times last season when he initially returned from wrist surgery.

But this demotion is noteworthy.

“I know what I bring to the table on both ends of the floor. I think I’m really good on both ends. I can still get better on both ends,” Williams said. “Obviously, everybody wants to be a starter and play 48 minutes. But whether you start or come off the bench, you want to do your job. It’s never like I want to see whoever took my spot do bad or anything like that. Because we’re all on the same team.”

Donovan lauded both demoted players’ aggressiveness. Dosunmu didn’t miss a shot and scored nine points with five rebounds, three assists and one turnover in 21 minutes. Williams finished with seven points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.

Part of the balancing act is Donovan admitting he wants to keep Caruso’s minutes under 30, which the Bulls accomplished when the floorburn-friendly guard logged 28 minutes.

But the bigger storyline is how Williams can still develop to become the two-way force the organization envisioned for him now that he’s in a reserve role.

“The one thing we’ve been trying to do is to try to get him to be more aggressive. I think being out there with three terrific offensive players in Zach (LaVine) and Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) and DeMar (DeRozan), sometimes there aren’t as many opportunities. I told him in doing this I wanted him to be more aggressive offensively, that he was going to need to be somebody who could give that group a little bit of a pop. I look at it that this may actually help his development.”

Time will tell on that. In the meantime, LaVine, while praising Green and noting the Bulls are a close group, said that both demoted players should take the development as a challenge.

“I don’t think they should be happy or satisfied with it at all,” LaVine said.

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