Bulls

Jim Boylen reflects on his first calendar year as Bulls head coach

Jim Boylen reflects on his first calendar year as Bulls head coach

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Jim Boylen succeeding Fred Hoiberg as Bulls coach.

“I don’t know if it feels like a year. It’s been such an intensive, 58-game game situation [last season] and then the busy summer. The season starts and you’re kind of in the thick of it,” Boylen said. “All I can say is I’m really enjoying it. I like this group of guys. I like the way we work. I like the way we practice. And I just really feel comfortable coaching these guys.”

Following Monday’s 113-106 victory over the Kings, which capped a 1-2 trip, the Bulls are 24-55 under Boylen.

Deep in a rebuild, they have posted one month of .500 basketball, going 5-5 last February. They have defeated five teams with winning records, none this season.

At 7-14, the Bulls are in the conversation for the league’s most disappointing team. Following a strong offseason in which the Bulls acquired targeted players and were widely praised by pundits, they landed in some prognosticators’ playoff picks.

Instead, Lauri Markkanen has looked like a shell of the breakout player many expected him to be, Zach LaVine posts advanced metrics that don’t always impact winning and a lack of wing depth has been exposed following injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison.

“My message is we have a young, competitive team that is working and learning,” Boylen said, when asked what he’d say to fans. “I understand your frustration with not winning more. But this is a team that is improving and trying and caring.”

Boylen has talked about establishing a style of play at both ends and has met management’s expectations regarding accountability and a direct, honest teaching component when dealing with players.

But it hasn’t yet translated to wins, although perhaps Monday’s solid road victory and upcoming home games against the lowly Grizzlies and Warriors can change matters.

The Bulls sank 16 of 37 3-pointers and scored 23 points off 18 Kings turnovers, posting nine steals. It’s amazing what happens to Boylen’s systems, which have consistently produced turnovers and open shots, when shots go in.

This season was supposed to be different because Boylen had a full training camp to implement his preferred philosophies. He didn’t have this opportunity when he took over for Hoiberg.

Boylen also added assistant coaching hires Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers to help impact the offense and defense, respectively. And while management had final say and the task of executing free agency, Boylen had input on offseason acquisitions Thad Young, Tomas Satoransky and Luke Kornet.

"[Expletive], yeah, it’s a growing process," LaVine said of Boylen's first year on the job. "We’re just taking it one day at a time. I’m just glad to get back on that winning streak. We need to start getting it going before it gets too late."

Asked if this season feels different than last, when the Bulls fielded a glorified G League team down the stretch because of injuries and players getting shut down, Boylen said it does “for a lot of reasons.”

“I have a relationship now as a head coach with the group, through a training camp and the first 20 games. Last year, I went from an assistant coach to the head coach. It’s a different vibe, a different feel,” he said. “I’m really enjoying it. I love the teaching part. I love the competitive part.  And I got a really good group of guys.

“Are we frustrated that our record’s not better? Of course we are. But I gauge it on these guys are working and caring. That’s what we have to do to break out.”

Could Monday be the start?

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Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Tomas Satoransky is a perfectionist and a pleaser.

This can be a positive thing. It also can be negative.

“Everyone who is close to me will tell you that I’m hardest on myself. I always expect to play the best,” Satoransky said in an interview. “I always expect to be perfect, which isn’t always the best but in the long term it has always worked out for me.”

That’s because perfection is an unattainable quest. But Satoransky keeps working towards the unachievable goal. So he’s driven, which is good, but sometimes self-destructive, which isn’t.

Early on, as Satoransky slowly adjusted to a new city, new coach, new teammates and new system, the process didn’t go smoothly.

“I didn’t feel down. I felt frustrated and anxious to do better, anxious to help the team as much as he can,” coach Jim Boylen said when asked if he sensed frustration from Satoransky. “He really struggles when he lets the team down. That’s just basketball. You’re not going to play perfect all the time. He takes it to heart. I’ve spoken to him about it. I don’t need him to beat himself up. Just continue to grow and learn how we’re going to play and get used to guys. It does take some time to get a feel for each other.”

And it’s happening. Satoransky has posted nine straight games with at least five assists, the second-longest stretch of his young career. Coincidentally, his assist totals began to rise the more he looked for his shot.

“I think there’s a point where you make other people better, which he tries to do, and a point where you have to play your game. I think he’s starting to figure that out,” Boylen said. “I think he’s starting to understand where his spots are and how he makes people better but also doesn’t lose the positive things he can do individually.”

The selflessness of Satoransky is something that gets mentioned often by others when they’re asked about him. He’s someone who takes the time to read a situation before asserting himself, always trying to make the right play.

This dynamic was exacerbated by Satoransky not only joining a new team but doing so after playing a leading role for his Czech Republic national team at the FIBA World Cup this offseason.

“I think I’m very adaptable. But I won’t aggressively adapt. I’ll try to see what it is---new coaches, new offense---before asserting myself,” Satoransky said. “I knew I had to be patient, especially with a new team, new role. I’m also coming from a very different situation in the World Cup. And I’m trying to fit in and make my teammates feel the best and most comfortable around me. But I’m trying to be more aggressive because it opens up more space.

“I feel we’re more and more on the same page now.”

Satoransky’s averages of 9.6 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.1 minutes are eerily similar to those he posted last season with the Wizards, his breakout season. In 80 games, including 54 starts for the injured John Wall, he averaged 8.9 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds also in 27.1 minutes.

He’s shooting 39.7 percent on 3 3-point attempts per game---again very similar to last season’s 39.5 percent on 2 3-point attempts per game.

“I tell him he has to take his shots. He’s a threat,” Zach LaVine said. “He can shoot and create for others. Once he gets in the lane, he’s crafty. He isn’t just a spot-up 3-point shooter.”

Satoransky is in the first year of a three-year, $30 million deal that is only partially guaranteed in the final season. He said he is enjoying Chicago and playing for the Bulls.

“Everyone cares. We get along well,” Satoransky said. “This is my second NBA locker room, but I think this is one of the best groups I’ve had.”

Now, he just wants to improve the won-lost record to something closer to perfection.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 100-98 loss to the Warriors

0:45 - Reaction to loss and Bulls losing to Warriors again

2:30 - On 4th quarter struggles

3:30 - On Zach LaVine’s game-winning shot attempt

5:20 - Viewer comments on Coby White starting

9:20 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine leads to Matt rant

10:20 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter

12:10 - Viewer comment on Sato needing to be more aggressive

13:30 - Viewer comment on Luke Kornet

16:35 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine talking trash to Warriors

18:00 - On LaVine not being the issue

19:00 - On Otto Porter’s injury and being out indefinitely

22:10 - Viewer comment on Bulls being contenders

23:50 - Viewer comment asking why Matt is always angry

24:50 - Viewer asking Sabine how he feels about the Bears beating the Cowboys

26:20 - Which team is more likely to make playoffs, Bears or Bulls?

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

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

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