It’s not perfect inside the Advocate Center, but one day later it appears as though Jim Boylen and his Bulls are at the very least getting closer to being on the same page.
The Bulls participated in a – wait for it – lengthy shootaround Monday afternoon in the wake of Sunday’s mini revolt when the players called for a meeting instead of practicing. The players met together and later the coaching staff and members of the front office, voicing their opinions in an attempt to be direct and get on the same page.
The results of those meetings won’t be known until the Bulls take the floor, but the opinions from the players who spoke at shootaround were that the talks were positive, with veteran Robin Lopez going as far to say “we came out the better for it.”
Head coach Jim Boylen also agreed with players, noting that after a turbulent first week that saw Fred Hoiberg fired on Tuesday and the Bulls suffer a franchise-worst 56-point loss to the Celtics on Saturday, that something of a coming together needed to happen at some point.
“I think it was a thing that had to happen with the change,” Boylen said. “I think it’s a blessing for where we want to go and nothing grows without some sun, some shade, some rain and I’m encouraged, they’re encouraged.”
But Boylen also pushed back at the notion that the decision for the Bulls not to practice – and reportedly deciding on whether or not to even show up at all – was not a group decision, but instead a minority whose voices were heard most loudly.
“The truth is we had a couple guys who thought a Sunday practice was excessive after the week we had. And they have to trust me if I bring them in here to practice, I’m going to manage their legs and manage what we’re going to do,” Boylen said. “They didn’t understand that. So I explained to them you have to trust that I’m going to do what’s best for this team. What was best for this team was coming in, being together and growing. Some guys felt that was excessive. We cleared that up, and we’re moving on.”
Boylen’s first week as head coach of the Bulls has at times felt excessive. The Bulls practiced for more than 2 hours on Monday and again on Wednesday, complete with conditioning drills that Boylen said would help the Bulls get back to the basics. A road loss to the Pacers was sandwiched in between those practices. The Bulls earned their first win of the year against a winning team – and Boylen’ first as head coach – on Friday against the Thunder before suffering the embarrassing loss to the Celtics.
After that game Boylen questioned the toughness of his team, calling their play “embarrassing” which ultimately led to the backlash that occurred Sunday afternoon when the head coach called for a rare practice following a back-to-back set.
Though Boylen’s been around for three-plus seasons as an assistant coach, the tough love as head coach has been a stark difference from what the team experienced under Fred Hoiberg. But Boylen believes his job is to get the most out of a young group that, despite low expectations, is still failing to meet them on a nightly basis. And though he did give in Sunday to a team that pushed back on his methods, he said Monday that “this is not a negotiation.”
“My job…is to try to push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” he said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is. That’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for.
“I explained that to them – ‘Hey guys, everybody wants it comfortable, everybody wants it safe. Well, I don’t think you become great in that.’ So it’s going to be a little raw for a while, it’s going to be a little rough for a while. And maybe there’s a point where it gets not as rough but all of a sudden it’s got to be rough again.”
Bulls players are attempting to find that balance of a coach that seems hell bent on getting the most out of his guys through old-school tactics. That’s why Sunday’s meeting was called, and while everyone spoke glowingly about what happened, the reality is the proof will be seen over the coming days, weeks and months, beginning with Monday’s game against the Kings.
Just another day at the corner of Madison and Wood.