The latest development in the clearing of the air between head coach Jim Boylen and his Bulls players is a leadership committee.
Details of the committee first surfaced on Monday when ESPN’s Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne reported that Zach LaVine had spoken with Boylen 1-on-1 following the infamous Sunday meetings at the Advocate Center.
Those discussions led to the creation of the leadership committee, which both LaVine and Boylen spoke about on Tuesday before the team departed for Mexico City for their Thursday game against the Orlando Magic.
"We had a situation over the weekend that could have been handled by a leadership group walking into my office and saying, ‘You know what, Coach? This is how we feel today. What do you think?’ That was the teaching moment,” Boylen said. “I’m juiced, man. I’m jacked up about it."
It’s certainly unconventional of a professional team, but the Bulls are also the second youngest group in the league. Nine of the 13 players Boylen played on Monday are 24 years or younger, and if Boylen’s first week on the job showed anything it’s that there’s disconnect between coach and players.
The Bulls have individual leaders to be sure in players such as LaVine, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. But there isn’t a dominant presence in the mold of a Joakim Noah, Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler that there’s been in years’ past. Such is life in the midst of Year 2 of a slowly moving rebuild.
“We’re putting it together within the team and we’re just trying to figure out the right dudes to lead the team, who will be with us moving forward,” LaVine said. “I think that’s the main thing. But I think it’s a great thing, especially with a young team. It’s not a dictatorship.
“We don’t have a straight-up old-school vet on the team, like a Kevin Garnett to where you know he’s the exact leader.
“With a young team I feel like we can all have a voice, especially the ones that are going to be on the team [moving forward] and dudes that’s voices are respected.’’
The hope is that eventually the 23-year-old LaVine will become that player. It’s why he went to Boylen in the first place as the spokesperson for the team. He’s months removed from signing a four-year, $78 million contract and despite his age is one of the most experienced players on the roster. The likely All-Star has been front and center during the tumultuous 48 hours and wants to take on more responsibility for a team that to this point has relied heavily upon him.
LaVine said the last 48 hours have brought the team closer – something he felt on the court Monday despite the second-half struggles in a loss to the Kings – and that it’s also given him a better understanding of Boylen and how they both have competitive streaks. The next step for LaVine is to transform and mold into a leader who brings it every day. It’s a tall order, but so is building a successful team in the NBA.
“I’ve always been a leader in my own way. I think right now I’m trying to be more vocal. I’ve always been somebody that’s tried to lead by example, hard work and stuff like that. Try and go out there and play the best I can.
“There might be times you’re lazy or you have a play off or whatever, that’s taken into account, but I’m trying to work that down, but you can’t ever question how hard I work and how much the game means to me. I can say that I know I’m a natural leader, but there’s always things you can work on. I’m doing that now.’’
The leadership committee won’t undermine Boylen – remember, “this isn’t a negotiation” – and the head coach said he’s still responsible for and making sure every player knows his role. It’s something he spoke to each player individually about prior to his first game as head coach in Indiana, but even Robin Lopez admitted Monday that some guys are still trying to figure out where they belong. That will fall on Boylen to get each of his players ready on a daily basis.
“A guy isn’t going to go to the leadership committee when he doesn’t understand his role,” Boylen said. “These are about the soul and spirit of the team. What I expect the leadership group to do is respect and honor the soul of the team.”
With LaVine and emotional and vocal leaders in Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis back on the floor, the leadership committee is in good hands. Even 19-year-old Wendell Carter Jr. has been vocal about where the Bulls have struggled and how they can work their way out of them.
With Boylen and the Bulls seemingly on the same page and a leadership committee formed, they’ll turn toward on-court improvements. They’re currently sitting at 6-22 with the worst net rating in the NBA, and the offense hasn’t gotten any better under Boylen. A healthy roster – minus Denzel Valentine – will help smooth things out, but there’s a lot to get right before the Boylen Bulls are all the way back on the right track.