Bulls

John Paxson makes one thing clear: The Bulls believe in Jim Boylen as the coach of the future

John Paxson makes one thing clear: The Bulls believe in Jim Boylen as the coach of the future

The Bulls believe in Jim Boylen.

If there was one significant takeaway from John Paxson’s 35-minute exit interview Thursday at the Advocate Center, it’s that he and the Reinsdorfs are fully on board with Boylen leading the Bulls forward into the critical years of their post-Jimmy Butler rebuild.

Paxson went as far as saying it’s “very possible” the Bulls will extend the contract of Boylen, who took over for Fred Hoiberg in December and received a raise through the 2020 season.

“I’ve spoken to both Jerry and Michael about addressing that,” Paxson said of a potential contract extension, “and I don’t know what the timing will be, but I envision Jim being our coach here and us committing to him.”

Boylen inherited a mess when he took over for Hoiberg on Dec. 3, tasked with leading a 5-19 team that was missing its foundation piece in Lauri Markkanen, as well as two top rotation players in Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis. More important than wins and losses, Paxson discussed wanting Boylen to change the attitude, practice habits and overall culture that had been trending in the wrong direction under Hoiberg.

Chaos ensued almost instantly, with a few Bulls leading a near-mutiny against Boylen after the head coach called for practice following a back-to-back weekend set. Paxson admitted Thursday that Boylen’s turbulent first week, which also included a franchise-worst 56-point home loss to the Celtics, “was like dynamite blowing up.”

But Boylen righted the ship and instilled the values that Paxson and upper management were looking for. It coincided with the Bulls getting healthier, but they closed out Boylen’s first month with a 4-3 record, including wins over eventual playoff teams in San Antonio and Orlando.

Boylen eventually toned down the suicide runs, two-and-a-half hour practices and pushups. But he continued on with his tough-love and forthcoming personality that endeared him to the front office. When injuries decimated the Bulls’ depth, that approach helped the Bulls get everything they could out of end-of-the-bench players like Shaq Harrison, Ryan Arcidiacono, Wayne Selden and other.

He was genuine to a fault in discussing his passion for his players – spirit and soul and all those other buzz words – and in Paxson’s eyes, that dedication.

“The thing that excites me about our direction with our head coach is his passion and his care level for our players and this organization,” Paxson said. “He wants to succeed, he wants our players to get better, he has a plan in place for all of them in order to do so and that’s very encouraging.”

Passion, spirit and “preparing the child for the road, not the road for the child” – a quote from Boylen on Feb. 23 – is one thing, but he’ll need to start improving the team, too.

Injuries were certainly a part of Boylen’s first season but numbers don’t lie: After he took over, the Bulls were 28th in offensive efficieney, 27th in defensive efficiency an 27th in net rating. Just about all their numbers under Boylen were worse than they were under Hoiberg, and that was with a better crop of players the majority of the season.

But Boylen, Paxson said, has shown a commitment to leading and improving his young group. It began on Thursday with player exit interviews that Paxson called “as efficient…as I’ve (ever) seen” with consistent messages about what will be expected of each player.

“He’s laid it all out there for each guy, exactly what he thinks they need to work on. It’s been done in a very positive way in terms of showing that he believes in them and wants them to get better,” Paxson said. “We’re at a really good place with our head coach in terms of the direction we’re headed.”

Paxson also said he has communicated with Boylen more during the past five months than he did with any other previous head coaches combined. That’s led to a general understanding of that demanding head coaching style that at times came under fire, but one that Paxson believes is a critical factor to the success of the Bulls’ young roster.

“He really does view himself as a teacher, a guy that wants to connect with the players, “Paxson said. “And sometimes you have to be demanding and hard, and I still believe that you can demand as a head coach as long as you’re showing these guys that you’re doing it because you care about them and you want them to succeed.

“Jim Boylen, in our estimation, has done terrific things in terms of establishing what we want in this building and with this organization, especially on the practice floor, how to carry yourself and how to work.”

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley's path to the NBA was an intriguing one, a true story of perseverance featuring many twists and turns. For those who haven't closely followed Beverley's career, the Chicago native and current Los Angeles Clipper had a three-year career overseas before he really caught on in the NBA, landing a multi-year deal with the Houston Rockets in 2013. Before landing with the Rockets, Beverley played for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece), Spartak St. Petersburg (Russia) before landing in Houston but a lesser-known fact is that Beverley actually spent time practicing with the Bulls within the first two years of his overseas basketball career. 

On Saturday's episode of "The Woj Pod" hosted by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beverley discussed the importance of glue guys, Kris Dunn's season and much more. One of the more interesting tidbits was the aforementioned workouts with the Bulls. Beverley responded to a Woj question about if he could've played with the Bulls had things went differently earlier in his career:

I worked in the summertime with the Bulls, I don't know, two-three years in a row, Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense...

Beverley elicited laughter from the crowd but he is clearly (and some would say rightfully) still upset by those who didn't give him an opportunity along the way. He went on to say that there is a "dynamic that fans don't know" and "can only assume." In the interview, Beverley didn't give a specific year but he says "two-three years" and clearly states that Vinny Del Negro was the head coach, meaning that he likely scrimmaged with the Bulls at points during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

When you take a closer look at those rosters, the possible matchups Beverley had become incredibly interesting to think about. The 2009 Bulls had nine players scoring in double figures — and a 10th scoring 9.9 points per game in Kirk Hinrich — and the 2010 Bulls had six players scoring in double figures.

Beverley could've had matchups against Larry Hughes (12,0 PPG in '09), John Salmons (career-high 18.3 PPG in '09), Ben Gordon (20.7 PPG in '09), or even Derrick Rose (18.7 PPG from 2008-10). Out of that group, Gordon and Rose specifically, can make any defender look bad on their best day, so maybe Del Negro's mistake wasn't as egregious as it appears now. Either way, Beverley certainly hasn't forgotten the ordeal. 

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Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Ask anyone from Chicago around All-Star weekend, and you'll quickly learn the city breeds tough, gritty and relentless basketball.

Apparently, it also breeds controversial dunk contests.

Thirty-two years after Michael Jordan bested Dominique Wilkins in a contest at the Old Chicago Stadium that many agree saw a healthy heaping of home-cooking on the menu, Derrick Jones Jr. topped Aaron Gordon in an affair that sent shockwaves through the NBA universe. Here's the rundown:

Highlights from regulation

There was a special feeling about this one from the very beginning.

Perhaps white men can jump:

 

 

Dwight busted out the cape (again) — and tributed Kobe along the way:

 

Aaron Gordon at one point rattled off five 50s in a row:

 

The finish

In the end, it all came down to Gordon and Jones, who duked out a dunk-off that featured some absolute haymakers:

 

It was raucous fun, truly. But the controversy came at the finish. Jones' final dunk was an attempted reprisal of Julius Erving's famous free-throw line dunk (re-popularized by Jordan, partly in that aforementioned '88 contest), which registered a 48. Gordon then pulled out the 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall for an improvised leapfrog that nearly tore the roof down.

 

"It was a great decision for him to do that. Everybody knows Tacko's a fan favorite," Jones said. "I knew it was going to get the crowd hyped."

"He (Fall) was a little bit nervous. He was like 'I got faith in you.' I was like, 'I appreciate it,'" Gordon said.

That dunk, though, garnered only a 47 from the judges. Game, set, match: Jones. Boos cascaded from the rafters.

The reaction

That sentiment carried over into the postgame presser.

"What are we doing here?" Gordon bemoaned to assorted media before even taking his seat at the podium. "Jumping over somebody 7-foot-5 and dunking is no easy feat. What did I get, like a 47? Come on, man. What are we doing?"

All fair questions. All fair points.

"I don't even know who gave me the 9s. I'm going to find them," he added with a laugh. "Trust me, I'm going to find them tonight.

Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman... Look out.

Gordon did give Jones his due, calling him a "leaper" and "great dunker." Still, this appears to be the final contest of Gordon's career.

"It's a wrap, bro. It's a wrap. I feel like I should have two trophies," Gordon said, alluding to his defeat at the hands of Zach LaVine in 2016. "My next goal is going to be trying to win the 3-point contest."

Jones, meanwhile, contested the premise that Gordon was robbed at all.

"When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school and I know that's 50-worthy. There's no way I should have got a 48," Jones said. "He clipped Tacko's head when he did that dunk, so I knew they couldn't have gave him a 50 for that one. I would have respected it if they gave him another 48, so we can go again."

In that event, Jones said he would have been ready.

"I just turned 23, I got legs for days," Jones said. Jones' birthday was the night of the contest, and he said he had dunks planned for as long as the judges allowed them to.

And though Jones hasn't yet thought about where this dunk contest ranks in the history of ones before, he's ready for the next challenge.

"Whoever want to step out there. I don't know. I'm not naming no names. I don't want to call nobody out, but whoever want to step out in front of me, I'm there. I'm not going to shy away from nobody."

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