Bulls

Everyone says the right thing following Sunday's fiasco, but Jim Boylen not backing down on tough-love stance for Bulls

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USA TODAY

Everyone says the right thing following Sunday's fiasco, but Jim Boylen not backing down on tough-love stance for Bulls

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.

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense. 

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

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NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”