Bulls

Denzel Valentine sprains ankle in Bulls debut

Denzel Valentine sprains ankle in Bulls debut

Denzel Valentine came up lame in the third quarter of his preseason opener, injuring his left ankle in the Bulls’ 93-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Monday at the United Center.

While defending Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams, Valentine took a hard step and turned his ankle, immediately grabbing it on his way to the floor, writhing in pain.

He went to the locker room and didn’t return after 11 minutes of playing time.

Being one of the few impressive reserves, he looked comfortable in his first taste of NBA action.

It doesn’t appear to be anything too pressing and clearly the Bulls will take a cautious approach with him, as the regular season is over three weeks away. Valentine said it’ll be “a couple days” and he’ll be back on the floor.

“I just closed out, took two steps and my feet got too close together and I just twisted it,” Valentine said. “I’ll get in tomorrow, get some treatment, rehab it. Work with my strength coaches and try to get healthy and back to 100 percent.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Valentine went behind the back for a jumper early in the second quarter, drawing some ‘oohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the bench and the crowd that saw him play for the first time.

Known as a ballhandler, he ran the floor with Rajon Rondo running the point, converting for a three-point play on his other field goal, looking quite comfortable as opposed to out of sorts or nervous.

“I felt like I was comfortable, like I was getting into a rhythm, felt like everything was going well for me,” Valentine said. “I’m kinda mad but it is what it is.”

Bulls’ unconventional leadership committee will 'have input on what we do and how we operate’

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USA TODAY

Bulls’ unconventional leadership committee will 'have input on what we do and how we operate’

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.

Report: Zach LaVine had solo meeting with Jim Boylen

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USA TODAY

Report: Zach LaVine had solo meeting with Jim Boylen

In a story published on Tuesday afternoon, ESPN reported that Zach LaVine had a one-one-one meeting with Jim Boylen on Sunday.

This meeting apparently came on the heels of the "near mutiny", when Bulls players discussed skipping out on practice.

The one-on-one between Boylen and LaVine was for both sides to "clear the air" and work on forming a solid working relationship, which included the idea of forming a "leadership committee" to act as a mediator between the coaches and players.

LaVine stated that he considers himself one of the leaders of the Bulls, thus he wanted to make sure his voice was heard.

This is a business, this isn't a dictatorship. We are all grown men, so everybody has a voice.

The story filed by Mailika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne went on to reiterate that the front office supports Boylen's tough coaching style, but most concerning was the apparent disconnect over what was the team's initial plan for the week:

Boylen told reporters that initially he had planned on having a tougher practice but after thinking it over, changed his mind. He said that his change in plans had nothing to do with getting wind of players' plans to not show up.

"I have the prerogative to change my mind," Boylen said on Monday night before the Bulls' 108-89 loss to the Kings.

Boylen is obviously 110 percent correct. He has the right to change his mind about practice plans—or anything else for that matter—but it of course becomes a serious issue if he is telling the players one thing and then doing something completely different. No matter what took place on Sunday, it is clear that the two sides—Boylen and the players—are trying to make things work.

It has been a tumultuous start to Jim Boylen's NBA head coaching career, but his one-on-one meeting with LaVine is a huge step towards normality for a Bulls franchise that has been anything but in 2018.