home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


April 28, 2018

Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

BILLY DONOVAN: First of all, just want to thank everybody here. Obviously we see each other a lot every single day, and just appreciate the relationship, the professionalism. I know there's a lot you guys have to do and always respect the job you guys have to do, so just for this entire season, just wanted to thank everybody here for that.

Q. Looking back, how much damage did losing Andre do, looking back at it?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, you know, you go back as a coach, and when you're in the midst of a long season, there's a lot of things that happen. I think as the season started, we clearly were an extremely elite defensive team with Andre out there. I think our struggles early in the year was finding a balance offensively. The first month of the season, I thought we really struggled offensively. I think once we got that kind of cleaned up, we started to play really, really good basketball, and then I think when Andre went down, it put us in a situation to kind of have to almost start over again, reinvent ourselves, find ourselves.

And then I thought towards the end of the season, we started to play better, but there was certainly different times during the season where we got one thing resolved and were really moving in the right direction, something popped up, we had to get something else resolved, kind of go back to the drawing board.

And I think with a team of so many new pieces, there was constant change going on during the course of the season. It impacted our team, but I think the pickup of Corey late gave us some added length and size on the wing, and he did a really good job for us. But we were constantly, I think, evolving as the season unfolded from start to finish.

Q. When you talk about new pieces and the constant change the roster has had since you've been with the club, is that something that comes up in the off-season or within conversations with Sam when it comes to your job security, because it's been three seasons, and I don't know how you guys measure the progress that you're supposed to have, but with the roster flipping over as much as it does, is that something that's talked about?
BILLY DONOVAN: I'm not sure I quite understand your question with the rosters.

Q. Like the roster overall from season to season, is that kind of a factor that plays into your job security; since you have so many different rosters, it's like Sam is kind of giving you the leeway to continue to experiment, to continue to go forward, because you haven't had the continuity that some other teams have had?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, I don't know. I think that basically things have changed since I've been here. I kind of inherited a team that was kind of pretty much together for a long period of time, that obviously there was some changes made once Kevin left, and then there were some changes made that year, so the roster has changed. Like I said before, I've got a lot of trust and faith and confidence in Troy and in Sam. I love working with those guys. I really have enjoyed the guys that are here right now. Every year the roster has turned over, I think we've had a great group of guys, but every year you're working with the players that you have, and I think Sam and Troy are making the best decisions to constantly try to help the team be better.

Q. Do you ever feel comfortable having autonomy as a coach to say bench Carmelo or limit his minutes because we saw in the series he probably wasn't as effective as he had been in the regular season, but he was a detriment defensively, as well. Did you feel you had that autonomy as a coach to make the decision to put a guy on the bench?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, I mean, Sam has totally let me coach the team. There's things that we talk about all the time about how to put our heads together to constantly evolve and grow the team. Carmelo I think has done a great job coming in. First thing was I think obviously changing positions for him, going from a small forward to a power forward, I think coming into a new role and trying to figure out how he can fit in, and I don't want to use the term reinvent himself but maybe playing a role different for him from the majority of his career and some of the sacrifices he's had to make. And then decision wise in the Jazz series, there was some things lineup wise and some things I thought we were trying to do differently that I thought Jerami could be really effective for us.

Going into the last half of the season, I think Carmelo had a lot to do with us making the run that we did the last half of the season. He was incredible on the Houston game on the road, one of the last games of the year to help us in that game. He was incredible in the first half, I think had 20 points. He played really, really well at Miami. And then obviously we went into a team in Utah that was a really good defensive team. They were probably the hottest team after the All-Star break with the way they were playing. There was some things that we did maybe a little bit differently adjustment-wise and going with Jerami there. But I don't think that that should put -- the two games there should put into a microcosm of what Carmelo did the entire season.

Q. You kind of touched on a feeling of optimism if you're able to keep this group together, heading into training camp and maybe into next year. What specifically about this group do you feel like has the chance to grow or take some steps forward?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, there was things that we did really, really well this year. The first thing is when you have half the roster change from one year to the next, the first thing you worry about is the connection, the chemistry, and how guys are together working with each other, because there's always going to be things you have to resolve and fix and work through, and the only way you're able to do that is by guys willing to work on those things, and I thought from start to finish, they were constantly trying to work on things to help us be a better team, okay.

I think the character of the guys, the kind of people that they are, the fact that they were willing to sacrifice, willing to work together, willing to try to get better really, really excited me. I was very, very optimistic going forward because of their willingness to do those things.

Now, the other side of that, too, is I think every team has challenges to deal with. Our biggest challenge to try to figure out I think in this off-season is our consistency. That has been a problem. That's going to be obviously my major focus. I think it needs to be our team's major focus is how do we become more consistent because we did some things where we certainly played at an elite level against some of the elite teams, so we know we can play with them. There were some moments that we played against teams that maybe were non-playoff teams that we weren't consistent.

But those are things I think that we have to work on and we have to get better at for the team to continue to get better and to improve. But because of the people and the kind of guys they are and the fact that the chemistry in the locker room and their willingness to work with one another, that's got to be the next step. And there was a lot of things for us to figure out with so many new faces coming in, and from start to finish they were willing to do those things.

Q. Are you surprised the consistency wasn't there considering they were willing and you had some veteran guys?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, I mean, I think for us -- when I say I'm optimistic about it, when we started the season, we were really, really bad on offense. I mean, really bad. We were like 24th in the league. The thing that was keeping us afloat the first month of the season was we were such an elite defensive team. We figured that part of it out, and we finished the season a top-10 offensive team in the league, going from 24. So that has a lot to do with those guys' willingness. The consistency part of stuff that we've all got to put our heads together. That will be my focus in the off-season, how do we get better being a consistent team. It's also who we're playing. It doesn't mean you're going to be perfect or not have a bad night, but we can be consistent on what I consider the controllables. And I think we have got to do that. We've got to be more consistent on offense with ball movement and player movement. We've got to be more consistent on defense when it comes to transition defense and blocking out and the discipline on schemes. There's times we do it at a high level, and there was times we didn't do it at a high enough level. That's what we have to work on. I think every team has always a barrier to cross or a burden that they've got to try to overcome. But I think over 82 games, there's a body of work that it's clearly in front of us of what we've got to focus on and get to work on and figure out a way to improve, and because of the character of these guys and the kind of people they are, that's where our focus needs to be, so that kind of gives me a level of optimism and excitement with the group because it's the first year together, and there was a lot of information that came from this year that I think we can pinpoint and address.

I think everybody knew coming into the season how was this going to work, how were they all going to fit together, how were they going to gel, how were they going to mesh, how was all these things going to come together. Everybody knew it was going to be a process, and the players knew it was going to be a process. You're unable to, before the season starts, okay, what's going to be this team's challenge. I think everybody thought the challenge was going to be, okay, how are all these guys going to fit in. Well, as the season went on we got better offensively and they fit in pretty well. But no one knew coming in, hey, this was going to be our challenge. We knew it as the season unfolded, but we've got to find a better way to get that resolved and fixed.

Q. Is it your expectation that you will be back next year as head coach?
BILLY DONOVAN: Let me say I'm excited about the organization. I love working with Sam, the people that are are here. I haven't given any thought to that. My total focus has been how do we get better and improve.

Q. Do you and Sam sit down every season when you have that conversation where you talk about the season?
BILLY DONOVAN: We always talk about the season, ways to get the team better, different things he's thinking about doing in the off-season. Like I said, I trust Sam and Troy with the personnel, that's what they do, and then obviously I'm dealing with the team.

Q. Do you feel like there's maybe a way to mend fences with Carmelo in terms of going forward with him?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, Carmelo to me has been a consummate pro. I think there was a lot made of Game 5, him wanting to be out there, and I respect that, and I said that about his competitiveness. But I think going forward, Carmelo has been a total pro, and he's been a total team guy. And there were decisions that I made during the courses of Game 5 and 6. I think some of those situations were really unique. We were down by 25 points in Game 5 with eight minutes to go or so, and we went on an incredible run.

But Carmelo was a huge part, a huge piece of helping us get to that point throughout the course of 82 games.

Q. As a coach, when they have that mentality of our record is good against the better teams in the league or that we're built for the postseason, do you feel like that's kind of dangerous to have a mentality in the locker room? I know there were a lot of things that go on --
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I never felt we were built for the Playoffs. I've never subscribed to that mentality. We've got guys with a lot of experience, but we, again, I think have got to be much more consistent, to your point. But I've never subscribed to what -- when a game starts, it doesn't make a difference what you're built for. It's that moment. There's 82 of them, and we were fortunate enough to get to the postseason. You're trying to be the best version of yourself every time you step on the floor and play.

Q. I know you said you let Sam kind of handle and deal with all the personnel issues, but when it comes to guys like Paul coming back or Jerami or Raymond, how much of a role do you play in that as far as you talking with them or staying in communication with them and Sam about what their intentions might be and what you would like to have happen?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think, again, we just finished playing last night. Like I said, I loved coaching Paul. I loved him as a person, as a human being. I loved his unselfishness, who he is as a player. I think it can only get better for him here after having one year together. I'm excited about that. I hope a get a chance to coach Paul for a long time.

But Sam and Troy will sit down and talk with me about those things, but we haven't had time. We got in last night at 4:00 in the morning and came in here this morning to do this, and then we'll meet with the team and have exit interviews. There will be a time and place for all that this week.

Q. Anything that Russ said is always magnified, but what did you see from him, just the way he was able to adapt himself to a different team just from last year's situation going into this year again?
BILLY DONOVAN: You know, I think some of Russell's struggles to start the year were him trying to incorporate a bunch of new guys to our team, and I think as he figured things out, he got better and better as the season went along. He takes his job very serious, and he takes the responsibility of a point guard and a leader very serious. For him, he was always trying to find ways to make the group better, to balance himself in with the group, to communicate with those guys. I think the dialogue to figure out how to maximize each other on the court, and not only Paul and Carmelo, but Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton and Alex Abrines, he was always trying to do that. I've always admired his competitiveness, the way he plays between the lines, but also admired the fact that with last year's team being different than this year's team, his willingness to make all that kind of fit together in a good way.

Q. You look back on the season in its totality, is there something you personally would like to improve on or maybe address differently as you move forward with your coaching career in this league?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I mean, every year as a coach, you're always trying to evaluate areas that you can help your team get better and improve, and I will always evaluate things I can try to do better. So it's no different for me. I've done that my whole entire career. I feel a strong sense of always wanting to improve and get better individually but also finding ways to help our group improve and get better.

These experiences -- I had a conversation with Mo Cheeks about this, and he said, I've been in the league for 40 years, and I only had a chance to experience a ring one time in my life. They're so hard. Obviously I've been in college for the majority of my career, and now this being my third year in the NBA, I've had a chance to experience a championship twice.

So when you sit there and the season comes to a close, I've learned that you can't just take bad year, good year, because did that mean it was wasted? Like if you're not happy at the end of the year because you're the last team standing, was everything for nothing? And there was probably a point in time in my career I really felt that way, and then what I learned is it's really about what did you learn and what do you take what you learned and how do you apply it to get yourself better, and through those experiences, you individually grow, and I think you help the team grow.

So for me, that's my focus on, okay, how do we become more consistent, how do we do a better job of being more consistent on both ends of the floor, how do we do a better job of having at times really, really good ball movement and other times it's not good ball movement. How do we do those things. These are, I think, lessons that you learned from and grow from, but I think the biggest thing is how do you apply what you've learned and what you've grown from to make yourself and the group better the following year.

Q. You have the experience with Kevin in his final season, and then going into free agency, and now you have the experience with Paul going into -- potentially going into free agency, as well. We've kind of shied away from making comparisons those two, because they're different people, but they both had big decisions to make. Just the feel you got from Kevin going into his final days here, how does that compare to the feel you've got going into Paul's --
BILLY DONOVAN: I don't know if I can compare that. Like I said, I think Paul was -- and so was Kevin. I really enjoyed being with Kevin. But I think they're two totally different people. I think for Paul, this being his first year, I loved coaching him, loved being around him. I think we're only going to be better next year after having a year under our belt, and like I said earlier, I hope I get the opportunity to coach him several more years, for a long time.

Q. The other guy who's going to have a decision to face is Jerami. What do you think about where he went during the season?
BILLY DONOVAN: Jerami when he came here was a little bit different for me because I had a chance to coach him for two years at USA Basketball, so there was a prior relationship with him coming here. I feel the same way about him. He's a great guy. I hope I get the chance to coach him a long time, as well. He is just in my opinion from year to year just continued to get better and has improved. He should really personally be encouraged by that because his role the last two years has drastically changed. He never played the center spot at all for us in terms of on the offensive end. We had Enes here last year and Steven and there was no room for him there, but because of Steven, when we went with Jerami at the 5, it was a totally new position, and I give him a lot of credit that he really flourished in that role. I think it speaks to his ability, his talent, and his intelligence as a player, that he can play so many different positions and understand assignments on both ends of the floor.

Q. When you talk about the offense and ball movement and improving that schematically, is that getting the players to buy into it more? What has to happen, because that's been something that's talked about a lot throughout the season.
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, we have moments where we're really, really good at it and then we have some moments where we're not so good at it. And I think probably for our team coming together, it's all been a little bit different for every guy throughout his career, from where they've been, the situation Carmelo was in in New York, the situation Paul was in in Indiana, the situation Russell has been in the last couple years, the situation Patrick Patterson has been in or Raymond Felton has been in. So you're trying to get to a balance where the effectiveness offensively is something that's sustainable over 82 games. Now, I think they made significant growth and strides, because, like I said, I'd be the first one to admit, the first month of the season, the thing that kept us afloat was our defense. We're really, really good defensively. We were not good offensively, and I think once we started to improve, I mean, we went from being 24th to a top-10 offense. So I think it's something that we need to build upon and we need to get better at. We did show signs to get better at it, but I think for us to keep taking steps in the right direction, we have got to be a team that is playing on a regular basis sustainable on the offensive end. Also with that being said, I'd say the same thing on the defensive end. We have got to have things that are going to be sustainable over 82 games. There's times we do it for pockets, there's times we don't, and that's the consistency part we've all got to figure out.

Q. What do you want to see Terrance do during the off-season to become more of an impact player?
BILLY DONOVAN: I thought Terrance had a great year. I give him a lot of credit for a young player being ready. He was in and out of the rotation, and he was ready. I think having a summer under his belt, after having an experience here in the NBA is only going to help him get better, but I think he's got a very bright future.

Q. You talked a lot all year about the consistency thing. When you evaluate the season, what role do you feel like you play in that consistency? What's your job?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, my job is to constantly put those things in front of those guys to have a level of the accountability, to be able to show them on film when we're at our best and when we're not at our best, things that we need to do. I think like anything else, you've got to build habits in those areas, and sometimes when the habits maybe aren't there, you have a tendency to revert back to kind of what you know a little bit, and that's for all of our guys. But we've got to be able to see those things, look at those things, accept those things, and understand that that's a challenge for us that we've got to overcome as a team.

You know, and going into the season, I always write down things that are going to be challenges for our team, the chemistry, how we're going to handle adversity, the connection on the court and off the court, the willingness to handle the accountability on responsibility, jobs and those kind of things, and then as you're going through, I think as your team evolves, you find things that are holding your team back, and as a coach you feel responsible to help them get better at the things that are holding them back, and then have them try to take ownership in those things to put forth the attention on whatever those things are.

Like for us, there was a lot of things. One of the things that was holding us back was offense. We were 24th for a period of time. We got better at that. We were really getting hurt on the defensive glass in the beginning of the year. We got better at that. We were a team that finished top 10, but we were one of the first free-throw shooting teams in the league, and we were still top 10. We probably left four or five points every game on the board. So there's a lot of things that you look at that are front of the guys to get them to constantly grow and get better at those things, and there's a lot on those guys' plates. They've got to play, they're dealing with scouting reports and those kind of things, but you're always trying as a coach to put things in front of them that are going to help move the needle to help our team get better.

Q. You talked all year about the sacrifices that Melo has made, him being the one that made the most sacrifice. At the number he's coming back at next year if he does come back, can you get him to take a reduced role?
BILLY DONOVAN: Listen, Carmelo -- and I get it. He is a guy that I've got an enormous amount of respect for. He's a great team guy. And I think that taking two games and me making a decision in two games -- and I think that those decisions that I made in those particular times -- you know, I'm not saying it helped or hurt, but our team was playing well in those situations there. Carmelo is an important piece to this, you know, for us. He's part of the team like anybody else.

I appreciate the fact that this guy has been a 10-time All-Star, he's come into a situation where he's had to totally reinvent himself. He's tried everything to do that. He's always put the team first. He had one moment that he wanted to be in the game because of the competitor that he is. I'd rather have guys like that than someone that doesn't care. He really, really cares.

So it's not about going into next year saying, hey, listen, you're having a reduced role, this is your role. I don't even know what our team is going to look like next year. For me, all I want to make sure is how do I as a coach -- and Carmelo's role changing, how do myself and the rest of the guys enhance his role, make him better at his role, because he's not iso'ing as much as he did in New York, it's the responsibility of myself and the rest of the group to try to find ways for him to get more shots and to take more threes and to get him in good spots on the floor. That's everybody's responsibility. And I think for Carmelo, I give him credit because there was times where, you know what, he probably could have gotten more shots up, but maybe we missed them. But no one is faulting him doing anything intentionally, but it was all different for him in a lot of ways, and he could not have handled himself any better, and I have great respect for him for that.

Q. Steven Adams, his season, and where you think his ceiling can be. You mentioned he made a big jump this year. Where can he go?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think Steven -- I haven't talked to anybody yet. I think Steven -- Steven's success this year in my opinion had everything to do with what happened last summer. He had an incredible summer of work. You know, he was here, he was back in New Zealand. He came in in great shape. He was really, really prepared. I think one of the things that happened the year before is he certainly had a bigger role that was new to him. It was the first time he had to go through it. And I think those experiences applied with the summer of what he knew he was going to have to do as a player really helped him grow.

And I thought he had an incredible year, but I thought the year started right when our season ended last year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297