Jim Boylen optimistic, encouraged by state of the new-look Bulls

Jim Boylen optimistic, encouraged by state of the new-look Bulls

LAS VEGAS — Jim Boylen was long gone from the Thomas & Mack Center by the time the earthquake hit on Friday night.

The Bulls’ head coach was back in his room at the Cosmopolitan, breaking down tape of the team’s Summer League-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers with newly-promoted assistant Paul Miller.

“We were two minutes into the first quarter,” Boylen said Saturday afternoon, speaking outside the team’s meeting room. Then, in an on-brand move, he praised the earthquake’s spirit and soul.

“I just think it’s the awesome power of nature to think that something can move that building that much,” Boylen said “It’s awe-inspiring to me.”

Boylen was in rare form in his first extended public comments since free agency began. He preached the merits of his trademark “Bulls across the chest” mentality, as well as as praising the grit and toughness of the Summer League debuts of the team’s two rookies, No. 7 overall pick Coby White and No. 38 overall pick Daniel Gafford.

By league rules, Boylen was not allowed to comment on the Bulls’ impending signings of forward Thaddeus Young, guard Tomas Satoransky and center Luke Kornet before they were made official. (The team announced the signing of Young later on Saturday afternoon.)

Still, it was clear that Boylen couldn’t be more jacked and juiced about his first full season at the helm in Chicago.

He’s got a new three-year contract extension after an up-and-down (mostly down) season taking over for Fred Hoiberg in mid-December. He has his own staff now, with veterans Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers coming on board as he attempts to reshape the team in his image.

Boylen praised the communication and rapport he’s developed with Michael Reinsdorf, John Paxson and Gar Forman as he’s transitioned from assistant coach to the top job. He boiled 120 pages of offseason notes down to a comprehensive presentation to management about his vision. You know all the buzzwords—grit, toughness, soul, spirit. But most of all, Boylen wants continuity. The Bulls’ 22-60 season was highlighted by injuries to just about every key young player, from franchise centerpieces Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen to rookie center Wendell Carter, Jr. and trade-deadline acquisition Otto Porter, Jr.

With a healthy roster and the signings of quality veterans like Young, Kornet and Satoransky, Boylen is hoping he won’t have to play a rotation full of G Leaguers if the starters sustain more injuries.

“What we talked about is we wanted to bring in high character depth that could support our current roster,” Boylen said. “I also wanted a team that was duplicit and redundant so we could play the same way. We’ve struggled the last couple years to play on a night when we had injury or illness, where we had to change our style of play before the game. I don’t want that. The good teams don’t have that.”

The Bulls don’t plan on winning 22 games again this season. The third year of their rebuild will be a pivotal one. They believe LaVine and Markkanen are their future, and the next step will be to string together enough wins to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, or at least to become respectable.

It will be on Boylen to steer this rebuild. In the early going, he’s optimistic about the returns and the outlook for the future.

“I feel in my heart that we're getting all the right people on the bus in the right places and I'm excited for that.”


Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

The NBA is expected to have a plan to resume its season approved by owners at a vote on Thursday, June 4, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The news comes on the heels of a call with the Board of Governors Friday that yielded nothing definitive. Four potential formats for relaunching the season and a target date of July 31 to resume play were reportedly floated.

But the above report from Wojnarowski marks the most marked progress towards the league formally agreeing on a return-to-play plan to date.

Predictably, the precise details of the plan are not yet known. In conjunction with Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne, Wojnarowski reported that the plan is expected to feature invitations for “20-to-22” teams.

That would mean no invite for the Bulls — perhaps a blessing in disguise (or dressed plainly). The Bulls are currently paused with the 24th-best record in the NBA at 22-43, and are 8.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference.

Still, the team opened the Advocate Center Friday morning with clearance from both Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago officials. Players in the area will be permitted to undergo NBA-sanctioned treatments at the facility, an opportunity which Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn have already taken advantage of. Voluntary, socially-distanced, individual workouts may begin Wednesday when Chicago is expected to enter Phase 3 of its reopening. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley will be en route to the city soon.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. A resumption bid seems on the cusp of coming to fruition.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Art19

How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

Before Michael Jordan rejoined the Bulls, he was a Warrior for 48 hours. Figuratively, of course.

No, Jordan didn’t officially sign (or even consider the notion) with the Warriors during the MLB strike that punctuated his first retirement amid the 1994-95 NBA season. But he did secretly practice with the Dubs multiple times whilst retired — and, with rare purpose, dominated multiple All-Stars in midseason condition. 

That story was unearthed on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast. Some of the people behind the production of the podcast, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, Ryan McGuffey and Tony Gill, joined Jason Goff on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss the behind-the-scenes machinations behind its creation.

McGuffey called the secret Jordan-Warriors practice runs the “golden uncovered nugget” of the podcast. And it came about rather serendipitously, in a chance interview with Tim Hardaway.

“The Tim Hardaway interview kind of fell in our lap. He was in our office one day and it was like, ‘Hey, do you want Tim Hardaway?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’” McGuffey said. “I mean, he was an All-Star. I don’t know if it’ll give us anything, I don’t know if it’ll lead to anything. 

“Sometimes the interviews you don’t plan for are the ones that become a stone that you turn over and you’re like ‘What is this?’ And Tim Hardaway made a comment, I asked about the Berto Center practices and whether or not he understood what was going on here in Chicago. And he said, ‘I’m gonna get in trouble for saying this.’ ... When a guy says that, you know you got something."

They did, indeed. From there, on recommendation from Hardaway, the crew got in touch with Rod Higgins, then an assistant coach with the Warriors, now the Atlanta Hawks' VP of basketball operations. As detailed in the podcast, it was through a connection with Higgins that Jordan was even allowed to participate in the practices in the first place.

McGuffey and company entered their sit-down with Higgins ready to pry, equipped with volumes of follow-up questions and previously-researched points. But Higgins was ready to share.

“We reached out, found Higgins with the Hawks and reached out to them and told them exactly why we wanted to do the interview. We said this is the story, here’s what’s been said and can you validate?" McGuffey said. "And he didn’t validate it, he didn’t double down, he tripled down and gave us more facts, more details.”

You can hear those details by listening to the Sports Uncovered podcast here, via the embedded player below or wherever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Art19