Jim Boylen and Zach LaVine 'in a better place' after Saturday meeting, but there is much work to be done

Jim Boylen and Zach LaVine 'in a better place' after Saturday meeting, but there is much work to be done

CHARLOTTE — Saturday afternoon brought some temporary calm following the storm.

Coach Jim Boylen said he and Zach LaVine met in Boylen’s hotel suite to communicate further on Boylen’s decision to pull LaVine shortly after tipoff of the Bulls’ Friday night loss to the Heat for what Boylen called “three egregious defensive mistakes.”

Both principals termed the discussion as positive.

“I let him know how I felt,” LaVine said. “We’re not going to try and drag this out. We had a misunderstanding. We still have a lot of things to work out as a team — personal, coaching. We all have to be accountable for our actions.”

Boylen said LaVine’s postgame comments from Friday, in which LaVine said he felt singled out, didn’t bother him because he knows “Zach’s heart and what kind of person he is.” He said he and LaVine talk regularly.

“I know he cares about the team. I know he cares about playing good basketball. I know we all can get frustrated with a poor performance, me included with my performance. Those things happen,” Boylen said. “I just want him to be more consistent. He wants to be more consistent. We have a whole team I think that needs to be more consistent. I’ve held Lauri [Markkanen] out of fourth quarters. I’ve pulled Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) the other day because I wanted him to play better in that situation. My job is to try to get this team to move in the right direction. That’s what I try to do.”

Boylen’s decision Friday marked the third time this season he has pulled LaVine as a “message substitution.” He did so at the Pacers on Nov. 3 and at home against the Nets on Nov. 16. However, Friday’s instance proved the most glaring because it came so shortly after tipoff; LaVine was pulled alone for Ryan Arcidiacono and he sat for the longest stretch of the three.

Boylen acknowledged that LaVine felt singled out by the move.

“That’s the greatest love you can show somebody,” Boylen said. “It’s to try to help them become who they can become.”

LaVine said Boylen conveyed that same message to him during their meeting.

“To each their own. If that’s how he feels he has to coach me, that’s his prerogative,” LaVine said. “Like I said, I let him know how I felt and we’re in a better place now. So we’ll see how it goes.’’

Does LaVine want to be coached that way?

“I've had a lot of coaches, man. I can be coached any way. I feel like I’m extremely coachable. I don’t backlash a lot. I just feel like sometimes when I feel like I’m disrespected I’ve got to stand up for myself,” LaVine said. “We talked about the offense. We talked about the defense. We talked about the personal level. So I think it was good.

“We both want to win. We know that obviously if I’m not doing as good as I can do, it’s not going to be as good for the team. And if he feels like he has to get on me to help that, I’m all for it. I want to be a winning guy. I haven’t won anything in the NBA, and that’s why I think it gets frustrating because we’re 5-11.

“We’re trying to be a winning team and trying to do all these things to get this in the right footsteps, and I’m with whatever. I’ve had games where I’ve shot 10 times, and I didn’t complain. I’ve had games where I’ve had 37 [points], and we lost or won, and I didn’t complain. So I’m just trying to go out here and get some wins. That’s all I’m worried about.’’

Boylen also said LaVine knew why he was pulled Friday night. In fact, an assistant coach showed LaVine clips of the defensive miscues on an iPad during the game.

“Our goals are the same: For him to become the best player he can become and for our team to play better basketball more often. Nothing has changed on that. And we’re moving forward,” Boylen said. “Everything was explained to him. This is part of coaching. This is part of developing a young team. These moments of accountability, these moments of teaching, this is what coaching is. We’re going to keep doing it.”

Boylen said he believes he and LaVine share trust because of their shared desire to win and because of “the time we’ve spent together, the way we’ve worked together, the improvements he has made.”

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing the NBA's reported restart plan


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing the NBA's reported restart plan

Laurence Holmes, Anthony Herron and David Haugh join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The guys discuss the state of our country and Vic Fangio’s apology after saying he did not see racism in the NFL. Also, they talk about Drew Brees’ criticisms of Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the anthem and how he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.”

13:00- The NBA is coming back. The guys discuss the 22-team restart plan which ends the Bulls’ season.

19:00- The Bears continue OTAs via Zoom. What do we want to hear from Mitch and Nick on Thursday?

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast


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With Bulls out of NBA’s return plan, focus shifts to unprecedented offseason

With Bulls out of NBA’s return plan, focus shifts to unprecedented offseason

The Bulls began the 2019-20 season with such promise, even talking playoffs.

They will end it with such peculiarity, now talking pandemic.

Pending expected ownership approval in a Thursday morning Board of Governors call, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will announce a 22-team return-to-play format that doesn’t feature the Bulls, according to sources.

What a wild eight months it has been.

Back at last September’s media day, John Paxson, Gar Forman and Jim Boylen talked optimistically about making progress in Season 3 of the full rebuild undertaken when the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler in June 2017. Instead, an underwhelming campaign led Paxson to tell ownership last December that it needed to modernize the front office.

Now, Arturas Karnisovas has replaced Paxson, who remains a senior advisor, and Marc Eversley has replaced Forman, who was fired. And with the season expected to end officially on Thursday, Boylen’s future hangs in the balance. A source said there is no imminent announcement regarding Boylen’s status.

When Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11 and Silver became the first major sports commissioner to push their league into an indefinite hiatus, the Bulls were riding a wave of optimism. Coby White had just started his first NBA game, scoring 20 points to continue his strong play in a home victory over the Cavaliers.

But that victory nudged the team to merely 22-43, one fewer game than the last time they played a shortened season thanks to a lockout in 2011-12. And that season, under Tom Thibodeau, they led the NBA with a 50-16 mark.

Though Boylen owns support from ownership and Paxson, his future will be Karnisovas’ call. The former Nuggets executive said he was hired to “affect change.” Eversley said the new regime’s mission is to make the Bulls a “player-first organization.”

Much of the player feedback the duo received about Boylen during the hiatus raises questions about his long-term fit. However, Karnisovas is known as a deliberate, thoughtful decision-maker who has worked to empower Boylen for now.

For instance, in a sign of Karnisovas’ leadership style, he has communicated to Boylen to focus strictly on coaching and working with his staff and players, sources said. Too often last season, Boylen got wrapped up in dealing with player agents or honoring commitments on the business operations side, which sidetracked his focus.

Karnisovas has communicated to the coaching staff that he and Eversley will put out the near-daily fires that typically arise over the course of a season. None of this, obvoiusly, precludes management from moving on from Boylen before the start of the 2020-21 season if it reaches that conclusion. But it gives a window into its operating procedure for now.

At his introductory news conference via conference call, Karnisovas set his goals clearly.

“A firm foundation is absolutely vital, I'll build that here in Chicago. No skipping steps. There is a systematic approach to success that will be the product of focus and intention, hard work and diligence. We will strive for constant improvement,” he said. “Chicago is a great sports town with a long, robust sports history. The city is made up of very passionate fans. Earning the enthusiasm and excitement back from the fans is both a challenge and something I very much look forward to. These fans deserve a team that they can be proud of, and my objective is to get us back to relevancy.”

Since being hired, Karnisovas and Eversley have held substantive conversations with players, evaluated all departments and begun the draft process. They added Pat Connelly as vice president of player personnel and J.J. Polk as assistant general manager.

However, Karnisovas has also utilized holdover front-office personnel like associate general manager Brian Hagen, assistant general manager Steve Weinman, director of pro personnel Jim Paxson and others, for now. Karnisovas has addressed situations he felt needed immediate change — the dismissal of Forman is an example — but is allowing the evaluation process to play out for other decisions.

With Otto Porter Jr. widely expected to exercise his $28.5 million player option and the pandemic likely impacting future salary caps, the new management regime may be initially limited to what they can do roster-wise. They face decisions on restricted free agents Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine.

And they’ve expressed confidence in some of the core pieces like Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr., while vowing to explore the reasons behind Lauri Markkanen’s regression.

It won’t help the Bulls and their status as one of the league’s youngest teams to go over nine months between regular season games. Even with momentum for a voluntary September minicamp for the teams not still playing in Orlando, it’s an unprecedented situation and alters a typical evaluation period for Karnisovas and Eversley.

For what it’s worth, Zach LaVine led the 2019-20 Bulls in scoring at 25.5 points per game. Carter finished as the top rebounder, averaging 9.4 per game. And Tomas Satoransky’s 5.4 assists per game led that category.

But the only number that matters is 22 victories, a full eight fewer than the eighth-seeded Magic when the league shut down. That number left the Bulls on the outside looking in, with plenty of work to do for 2020-21.

RELATED: Explaining the NBA's return plan, which won't include Bulls

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