Can Jim Boylen toughen up the Bulls and will that solve slow start issues?

Can Jim Boylen toughen up the Bulls and will that solve slow start issues?

With a 2-5 start in the rearview mirror and the Lakers rolling into town, Jim Boylen said he loves the Bulls’ offensive shot distribution and is confident the missed open looks eventually will fall.

The Bulls’ coach said while the pick-and-roll coverages have improved and the defensive effort in the latest disappointing loss to the Pacers ranked in the top-10, he has thought about possibly using some zone to offset too many straight-line drives allowed in one-on-one situations.

But Boylen continued to hammer on his most consistent theme, that the Bulls, as the second-youngest team in the league, need to learn and grow in areas of mental and physical toughness. Given how often Boylen shares that theme with reporters, one can only wonder how often players hear it.

Is Boylen ever worried his message isn’t getting through to his team?

“I don’t think so,” Boylen said following Monday’s practice at Advocate Center. “I think they need to take more responsibility for their preparedness. I think they need to take more ownership of their readiness to play. The head coaches in this league have never been expected to coach effort. Effort has to come from each guy.

“We had a good September and October, good training camp. I think we set the course of what we want to do. We had a poor game (Sunday). Let’s see if we respond.”

Boylen eventually admitted that playing with more urgency and toughness won’t solve all woes, which include the league’s worst rebounding numbers and a tie for 28th in shooting. For the second straight media session, he cited stagnation with ball movement and pace that wasn’t as evident in preseason.

Tomas Satoransky agreed.

“Offensively, we're missing our pace from the preseason and I think sometimes we're not taking open shots and instead we're taking the tough ones and I think that has to change,” the guard said. “Those are the details we're working on everyday, but I think our pace has to be different and better.

“I think we're sometimes missing our chances to attack the basket and then we're attacking when it's too late and the defense is already in the paint. We have to be smarter in those actions and taking sometimes the shots the defense actually gives you. Sometimes we're just waiting too long and then it's a bad shot for us and it's a bad balance for our defense as well.”

All of this begs the question: Can you make a team filled with players who are considered more skilled than physical tougher? That’s Boylen’s task every day.

Of course you know how he answers that question.

“I show them on film the situation. I show them in practice the situations where I thought they could have a higher level of urgency or physicality or competitiveness or toughness. That’s how I do it,” he said. “And in those moments I hope they learn that it’s acceptable, it’s OK to hit somebody once in a while within the game. It’s OK to be physical. And as they learn and get stronger and feel more comfortable, they grow into that tougher mindset.

“Where we have struggled I think is at times we’ve been willing physically, but we’ve been weak mentally. That’s also part of our development with this group. And we can make excuses for that. We can say we’re young, we can say we’re new. A lot of the league is young and a lot of the league is new. We can say we’re going to have played nine games in 14 days, we’ve played the most road games in the league. Is that pulling on our mental and physical toughness? Is that pulling on this group that’s never really been through it before together? Maybe it is. That’s the growth plate. That’s the learning moment.”

As Wendell Carter Jr. said following the late collapse at the Knicks, teams with serious playoff aspirations don’t lose such games. Nor do they cough up the late lead in the opener at Charlotte. Or fall to a Pacers team missing three of its top four players when the Bulls were at full strength.

“There’s not one answer to this,” Boylen said. “We make a couple more shots, our record is different. We make a couple more stops, our record is different.”

Offensively, Boylen said the Bulls are No. 1 in the league at getting to the rim but 24th in finishing.

“I think that goes back to your toughness questions and physicality,” the coach said. “Our deep drive decisions and finishing has to grow.

“Are we searching? I don’t know if we’re searching. We know how we want to play. Our shot distribution tells you how we want to play. We haven’t played as well as we hoped. And I don’t think we’ve played as well as we’re going to play.”

Once again, Satoransky agreed. And perhaps the fact the guard called Monday “a really good practice” is a start?

Hey, the Bulls are looking for positivity where they can find it these days.

“We know we have to put work in when things don't go your way. And I think that's what we're doing and staying positive,” Satoransky said. “We know we're a young team. It's still disappointing. We expected better for our start, but this is what it is and we just have to grind."

Grinding is physical, right?

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2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

It’s felt pre-ordained for months now. Now, it appears it’s decided.

No, the Bulls didn’t draw the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (yet). But The Athletic’s Shams Charania did report Monday afternoon that the lottery scheduled for Aug. 20 will take place virtually. All 14 teams ‘in attendance’ will be allowed to ‘send’ remote representatives. The event will presumably be televised, but details haven’t emerged on that front yet.

It’s a logical gameplan given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing nature, and the acclaim received by virtual draft showcases broadcast by the WNBA and NFL while live sports in the United States were effectively paused.

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The news also sends a few ripples in Bulls world. For one, who will rep the team, in this, its third consecutive lottery appearance? Michael Reinsdorf and Horace Grant manned the post in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But for this year? Benny the Bull would be sure to bring the energy. On the heels of the summer of “The Last Dance,” perhaps a dynasty-era contributor could get the call. Or maybe a newly-minted front office face instead? Time will tell.

And, as our K.C. Johnson pointed out on Twitter, this development also marks the end of a two-year streak of Chicago hosting the lottery in 2018 and 2019. The city has long housed the combine.

Here’s what Adam Silver told NBC Sports Chicago in February when asked his impressions of Chicago as a host-city for the lottery:

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

Silver made that comment before All-Star weekend in Chicago, but all of the above virtues translated. Though Bulls representation was limited, no one would deny Chicago played a splendid host for the festivities.

The Bulls enter this year’s lottery locked into the seventh-best odds (7.5%) at nabbing the No. 1 pick, and a 32% chance of vaulting into the top four. 

Slots No. 1 through No. 8 in the lottery standings are set with the teams excluded from the NBA’s restart. Slots No. 9 through 14 will populate at the end of the play-in round, when postseason seeding is officially set. Teams that started the restart as a top-eight seed in either conference can fall into the lottery if they miss the playoffs, but the ultimate order of the lottery odds will be decided by pre-hiatus record (meaning, for example, that if the current standings hold and the Phoenix Suns finish with a better record than the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but miss the postseason, the Suns would own better lottery odds than the Pels and Kings by virtues of each team’s pre-hiatus record).

All of which is to say, clear your calendars for next Thursday. After that, rumor and speculation are sure to swirl until the draft itself, which, as of right now, is reportedly scheduled for Oct. 16. The status of the combine remains up in the air, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported July 23 that the league is polling teams on which players should be invited to the combine if one takes place.

For the Bulls, helmed by a new front office regime and facing a moment of reckoning in the current rebuild, this year’s draft process is an especially crucial one.


Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

NBC Sports Chicago is counting down the top 10 Bulls at each position in franchise history.

We've hit the point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. And last, but certainly not least, the men in the middle. The centers.

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Defensive anchors, multi-skilled hubs and blue-collar tenacity abound in these rankings. And plenty of hardware — both of the championship and individual variety.

We hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Without further adieu...

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history