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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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls only score 73 points in loss to Charlotte


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls only score 73 points in loss to Charlotte

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 83-73 loss to the Hornets.

0:30 - Will Perdue makes a cameo to start the show

1:00 - On only scoring 73 points

4:55 - Is this loss worse than the Celtics loss last season?

6:30 - Viewer comments on the loss and shooting too many threes

8:00 - Discussion on Thad Young minutes vs Lauri Markkanen minutes

12:10 - Viewer comment asking what would the Outsiders say if head coach

15:05 - Viewer comment on Tomas Satoransky

17:20 - Viewer trade idea for Terrance Ross

20:25 - Viewer comment on Coby White struggling

21:25 - Viewer comment on Kris Dunn starting

23:50 - Our ideas for other ‘theme’ nights for Bulls games

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders


Is the Bulls' defensive philosophy hurting their rebounding?

Is the Bulls' defensive philosophy hurting their rebounding?

Jim Boylen opened his press conference with a silver lining.

"If there's a positive in this difficult loss, it's in the past when we haven't been able to put the ball in the basket... We haven't guarded well," Boylen said. "I thought our defense was terrific tonight. I thought it kept us in the game, it gave us a chance."

There's some validity to that. Friday night, the Bulls allowed their adversary, the Charlotte Hornets, only 83 points. The Hornets shot 38% from the floor, 19.4% from 3-point range (31 attempts) and turned the ball over 21 times. On most nights, holding an opponent to those numbers is a recipe for success — even if the paltriness of said figures was as much a result of the Hornets' sloppy play as anything.

Not in this one. The offense will shoulder most of the blame there: The Bulls shot only 30% from the field (they're the only team that's shot 30% or less from the field in a game this season, and they've done it twice) and 20.6% from 3-point range. According to Boylen, they shot 44% at the rim. Crucially, they were also outrebounded by Charlotte 60-45 — a disparity aided by the Bulls missing a whopping 63 field goals on the night. 

"They were crashing a lot of guys," Lauri Markkanen said. "We need to do a better job of boxing out. I feel like we did a good job defensively, but we just need to get the first rebound and limit their second-chance points."

The Hornets entered the night ranked 27th in rebound rate — which measures the percentage of missed shots a team is able to pull in — the Bulls 29th. For Charlotte, P.J. Washington (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Cody Zeller (11 points, 10 rebounds) both logged double-doubles, and Bismack Biyombo (12 points, nine rebounds) came close. As a team, they converted 11 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points. 

"They had 11 offensive rebounds. It seemed like they had more," Boylen, aptly, said. "Those plays are back-breakers."

Especially true in such a drudgy game. The Hornets led 44-40 at the halftime break, then 59-50 entering the fourth after outscoring the Bulls 15-10 in the third quarter. It was a game from a different era.

Thad Young rejected the notion that the Bulls were outmatched physically or undersized, relative to the Hornets.

"I think that's about us just going out there and making sure we get the ball, and us gang-rebounding," he said of the disparity on the boards.

Young cited the team's defensive philosophy — specifically, their strategy of blitzing and aggressively hedging in pick-and-roll coverage — as one factor in their inconsistency in this area. Bringing bigs up and away from the basket on those actions can often leave them out of position when the other team's eventual shot is put up (and off) the rim. 

"The way our defense is it kinda crossmatches us a little bit, because the big is generally trying to stop the guard from driving. Then when they hit the big, he's in the trail position, so their big has inside position on us, and then you have a big on the baseline or you have a cutter going baseline," Young said. "So it kinda puts us in a situation where we have to figure out who's gonna be in to get the rebounds, and usually, the guys that's in there to get the rebounds are guards. Because they're sagging in on the weak-side or they're helping trying to get the big into position where he can rebound the basketball."

Wendell Carter Jr. had 11 boards on the night, but the Bulls' next-leading rebounder was Zach LaVine, with eight. Then Young with five.

But Young declined to label it a systemic issue, or even a communication one. 

"It's just something that kinda happens in the flow of the game," Young said. "Some games are gonna be different than others. Some games we're gonna be able to get our bigs back, and some games we're gonna depend on our guards to come in and rebound."

It seems that this is happening often, as of late. The Bulls have been outrebounded in 19 of their 27 games this season — they're 4-15 in said contests.

Of course, making shots would help, as well. Between the two teams, there were 112 missed field goals tonight. That's a lot of chances for rebounds, and the Hornets converted more than the Bulls tonight.

"Imma be honest with you, I don't really see too much they were doing [defensively]. We were just missing shots," Young said. "I had three for sure that just went in and came out, and a couple other guys had some so. I think it was just one of those nights."

It certainly was. Now, on to the next — Saturday night, when they fearsome Clippers come to town.

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