Bulls

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Bulls

The Bulls have lost 12 of 14 games. They've endured widespread injuries. Just as core players like Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen returned on minutes restrictions, Zach LaVine missed his first games with a quadriceps strain.

It's been that kind of season, which began with such promise and talk of competing for the playoffs. With those a fading goal, player development remains a critical issue for the franchise.

And executive vice president John Paxson threw his support behind coach Jim Boylen for that task.

"We're obviously having a tough season. But all along, I've asked Jim to continue to focus on teaching our young players, focusing on development and accountability, and he is doing that for us," Paxson told NBC Sports Chicago. "He and his staff continue to work with players in practice and through individual film work so they can continue to grow, which we all believe will pay dividends in the future.

"Coby (White) is a good example. He is putting in the work and getting better. In terms of Lauri and Wendell, given their injuries, we are most concerned with them just playing these last 19 games and finding their legs and rhythm. Jim can't control the injuries. And he is remaining positive, which is what we need the remainder of the season."

Save for his recent challenge to play more physically following a dispiriting road loss in Minnesota, Boylen has remained relentelessly upbeat and positive this season. He had pointed to the Bulls being seven games ahead of last season's win total pace and owning a top-10 defense before widespread injuries hit.

 

Boylen has drawn scutinty for everything from his systems to his rotations to his unconventional use of late-game timeouts. Players have occasionally voiced frustration over their roles and usage. Boylen has remained undeterred, focusing on establishing a style of play and consistently saying he's carrying out orders from ownership and management to establish a foundation in his first full season on the job.

"This is not about me," Boylen said. "I'm just a leader of this group and I'm trying to get them to play together and understand how we're gonna play."

NBA coaches are hired to be fired, a harsh reality of the business that surprisingly played out Saturday in Brooklyn as the Nets and coach Kenny Atkinson parted ways. The Bulls face the Nets Sunday.

"I'm disappointed. Kenny's done a heck of a job in a tough situation, missing basically two of his guys all year," Boylen said, referencing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. "And I think he's a really good coach and a really good guy. So I'm disappointed that he's not gonna be coaching them in the playoffs."

Multiple outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that the Bulls are planning an offseason overhaul of their management structure and scouting department. It's standard practice for any new head of basketball operations to want his or her preferred coach in place. Nevertheless, Boylen continues to receive strong backing from both Paxson and ownership.

While placing the contingency that Boylen must be retained could limit the pool of candidates, NBC Sports Chicago previously reported that Michael Reinsdorf, who is leading the search, is expected to ask potential candidates to keep an open mind on retaining Boylen. If the preferred target candidate insists otherwise, that's not expected to be a dealbreaker.

Boylen said recently he'd be surprised if ownership or management used the Bulls' unsightly won-loss record against him because he has met the other guidelines laid out for him when given the job. But unless he's asked about it, Boylen isn't focused on his future, merely the task at hand.

"We've got a good group of guys that care, and all we can do is keep working at it," Boylen said.

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