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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