Jim Boylen is ready and willing to build this thing back from the ground up.
The Bulls’ offense has been in a funk for essentially the entire season, though it’s been especially bad for about a month. Since their win over the Cavaliers on Nov. 12, the Bulls have an offensive rating of 96.3, nearly 4 points worse than 29th ranked Atlanta. In that 12-game stretch they have the league’s worst effective field goal percentage and fifth worst turnover percentage.
So it isn’t surprising that Jim Boylen, in his first week after taking over for Fred Hoiberg, is simplifying things. He’s getting the Bulls back to the essential basics. While some may question his decision to run two-hour practices and have conditioning and endurance training usually seen in training camp be part of the process in early December, that’s the starting point for a Bulls team with the second worst record in the NBA.
“My focus is that we’re not where we need to be to compete, and so obviously we want to win but I want us to be at a level where we get the full force of what we do,” he said Thursday after practice. “I don’t think our conditioning allows us to do that.
“We’re on the first floor, We’re on ‘A.’ I’d like us to get to ‘D’ and ‘E.’ Maybe in two weeks we’ll see. We can’t get to ‘D’ and ‘E’ if we’re not in shape.”
Boylen admitted the Bulls will be able to get a little “trendy” once the full roster is back – he didn’t rule out Kris Dunn or Bobby Portis returning either Friday against the Thunder or Saturday against the Celtics – but for now playing basic is going to rule out.
It isn’t going be sexy, but what the Bulls have looked like the last three weeks hasn’t, either.
Past how the team looks, Boylen said that he wants the Bulls “to play smart” above anything else. In his head coaching debut the Bulls turned the ball over 18 times and scored just 90 points, getting to the free throw line an NBA single-game low five times in a loss to the Pacers.
Those ugly numbers, albeit a one-game sample size, also speak to the core principles Boylen is attempting to instill in his team. Beyond X’s and O’s – though he did watch film with the team immediately after the Indiana loss – Boylen wants to see better chemistry on the floor that he hopes will lead to better results come game time.
“I thought another practice where we strived to get better, we played for each other, not just with each other,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s a results business but I thought we took a step forward today.”
So while the comments may sound like that of a high school coach trying to get his group of players in shape before Thanksgiving tournaments begin, it’s his assessment of where his team is versus where he’d like them to be. It may not sound like an NBA coach describing his team in the first week of December, but he clearly sees a need for improvement in the smallest, most basic yet essential areas of the game.
“I thought we competed two days in a row, which I thought was a step forward. I thought we’re treating each other with respect but also competing, which I like, too,” Boylen said. “We’re just trying to build a first floor right now. There’s a lot to build.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.