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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.

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

As the Bulls played out the string last season, fielding glorified G League lineups, meaningful days still existed.

April 3 was one of them.

Not only did the Bulls scratch out a fun, one-point road victory over the Wizards, executive vice president John Paxson, coach Jim Boylen and general manager Gar Forman met with Otto Porter Jr. and his longtime strength coach from his alma mater of Georgetown.

That meeting mapped out Porter’s offseason plan and began the strong communication that continued Friday when Boylen and Porter met to discuss the organization’s approach for a proper workload for the crucial veteran. Following Sunday’s practice at the Advocate Center, Boylen for the first time publicly disclosed the Bulls’ plan to play Porter in the neighborhood of 30 minutes and approach back-to-back games on a case-by-case basis.

“We will manage him appropriately,” Boylen said. “He will not play over 30 minutes in anything we do to get going here. We’ll manage him on the off days in a real respectful way. Obviously, he’s a big piece. He’s our starting 3, a big wing. And we need him.”

The Bulls have a set of back-to-back games in this first week of the regular season, with their home opener against the defending NBA champion Raptors coming Saturday following a game at the Grizzlies Friday.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Boylen said. “It might be a situation where we manage him the first night in order to play him the second night. Or manage him the first night and the second night he feels maybe a night he doesn’t play. But we have a plan. It’s rough because it’s depending on how he feels.”

Right now, Porter feels good.

“Preseason has been great, making sure my body is healthy, making sure I get my reps in, making sure as a team we’re ready to go,” Porter said following practice. “I’ll hold it down for us until we get Chandler (Hutchison) back. That’s going to be always my job.

“But we got a lot of guards that can play the three too. We got a lot of guys that can play multiple positions. If somebody goes down, the next man always got to step up and replace – not replace but do more – and I feel like everybody is going to do more.”

Hutchison has yet to play with a hamstring injury. Shaq Harrison missed all five preseason games but is available for Wednesday’s opener in Charlotte, N.C.

Boylen said there are many options to keep Porter fresh even with Hutchison injured and Denzel Valentine currently out of the rotation, including Harrison or Tomas Satoransky at backup small forward and three-guard lineups. The Bulls also utilize big lineups with Thad Young at small forward.

“You’ve seen what we’ve done. We’ve had Coby (White), Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Kris) Dunn out there together. Playing small and fast is good. You can also put ‘Sato’ out there with that group,” Boylen said. “There may be opportunities where we go big depending on the situation of the game. We’ve practiced those lineups and scenarios.”

Porter played a huge role in the Bulls’ brief surge last February after arriving from the Wizards in a trade. He has battled nagging injuries in the past, including knee, shoulder and neck issues. Porter also underwent minor surgery on his left leg that knocked him out of the April 2018 playoffs to address a blood buildup around a contusion.

“Every season, there are ups and downs and teams go through it,” Porter said. “Right now, it’s a matter of depth and we want to start out fresh. You start out fresh, you’re already ahead of the game.”

Porter is encouraged by the Bulls’ offense during the preseason, including an increased emphasis on 3-point attempts.

“Right now, we might not be shooting a high percentage. But in the regular season, that number is definitely going to increase drastically because we’re practicing hard, making our open shots and just getting open looks,” Porter said. “We know what this offense can do for us.”

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

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USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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