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Speaking before Wednesday's home game against the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan said he has strong communication with Zach LaVine and isn't worried about the two-time All-Star disengaging from the team as his potential trade saga unfolds over the coming weeks.
"He's always been coachable," Donovan said. "He's always been a guy you can go to and talk to. . . . He's got a job to do just like I do and the rest of the team does. And you have to put your best foot forward and go to work."
Donovan said he visited LaVine twice this offseason in Los Angeles and has always found him responsive to communication.
"He's always been been very welcoming when I've come out there," Donovan said. "We've always had really good conversations. He's always responsive to text messages and phone calls. So I haven't seen anything where it's like, 'OK, this guy has really pushed himself all the way over here and he's just totally disconnected from everybody. I have not seen that at all.
"I would think that if there's anything he'd want to talk to a teammate about or a coach about or me about that he as a man would come up and do that. I do think our conversations have been very open and honest. And I think he has worked hard at the relationship just as I have."
Donovan downplayed concerns about LaVine remaining professional or his situation impacting the locker room. He also said he consistently talks to management and knows if something were to be imminent, he'd be aware of it.
"Artūras (Karnišovas) and I talk all the time," Donovan said. "I've always told you: When stuff comes up that's something really important or something that's potentially going to happen, he's always been great about getting my opinion on it. Everything else for us has been what we can do to help the team."
Donovan's coaching style is to be direct. Karnišovas consistently praises his communication skills.
"If there's a problem, I'm straight up. Just deal with it head on and let's talk about it. That's the way I am. And Zach in different situations that we've been together, he's voiced different things to me. And that's OK," Donovan said. "We'll talk through things or whatever it may be. I wouldn't say those conversations are abnormal for any other guys I've coached. Everyone is trying to put their best foot forward to figure out how to improve."
In fact, Donovan has said he doesn't mind conflict. Just look at his in-game exchange with Nikola Vucevic from Opening Night.
"I think my truth is my truth, right? That doesn’t need to mean that my truth is the right way, the only way," Donovan said. "Someone could have the same situation and their truth could be totally different. But what you do is you come together and you have a conversation and you deal with it head on. I’ve always been a big believer of that. I think the conflict part, the confrontation part, people think it’s yelling and screaming and it’s not necessarily that. It’s just confronting whatever the issue is. I think you have to lean into that stuff.
"I’m going to always be honest in terms of how I feel. That’s not to say that my feelings are always right. There are times that players express themselves and you take a step back and say, you know what, that player’s right. And I think there’s been times where a player stepped back and said, you know what, he’s right. And when you have those conversations, you’re at least moving towards solving things and I’ve just always been a big believer of that."