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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