Bulls

In the post: Johnson's play draws attention

In the post: Johnson's play draws attention

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010
11:00 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

TORONTO -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus familiarity with Brian Scalabrine certainly doesnt hurt the veterans cause, but with Joakim Noah sidelined with flu-like symptoms and foul trouble ailing starters Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, the veteran stepped up and proved his worth.

Hes a solid veteran. He gives you veteran leadership. Hes been in a lot of situations like that and tonight, were short-handed and thats why I like him, said Thibodeau. He stays ready to play, you put him out there and he can guard people and his team defense is very good and offensively, hes smart. He keeps the ball moving, he knows where the matchups are, he knows whos hot, he knows how the plays being defended, so you can count on him.

Derrick Rose is already a big believer in his new teammates influence. Scal, hes the other coach on the floor. When Thibs doesnt know what to run, Scal is always in his ear. If we dont know what to run, Scal is helping me and the other point guards, telling people where to go and thats what we need, just everybody talking on the floor, said Rose. It makes my job a lot easier, where when I come down and Scal knows something, hes coming to me. Weve got great veterans on this team, like Kurt Thomas K.T. when he sees something, hes telling everybody, so were all communicating out there and thats the reason why we came back tonight.

--Rose also had high praise for James Johnsons performance, explaining how the second-year forward has taken strides and improved.

Hes not thinking too much basic move, get to the basket, pull-up shot and thats all he needs. He doesnt need to dribble that much, he just needs to create space a little bit; hes playing with a lot of confidence right now, said Rose.

Added Thibodeau: Johnson was very good. I thought defensively, he was moving his feet, he was down in a defensive stance and offensively, I thought he made great decisions. As for Johnson himself, he attributes his successful evening to his teammates and the teams new system. I like how spread out our offense isWere moving the ball, which just makes my game a lot easier I do anything I have to do. I come off screens when I have to, cut, my man finds me and Im just happy they did today, said Johnson. My team provided offense for me. They spread it out and it was just easy for me to go to work when I got the ball. Once my guy had to help or stunt, then I got the ball and it was easy for me to drive the lane.

--Thibodeau believes swingman Ronnie Brewer is progressing well in his return from a pulled hamstring. Brewer played just under 25 minutes Wednesday his high this preseason and although he didnt put up gaudy statistics (five points, two assists), his coach feels hes starting to get back to his old self.

I really liked the way Ronnie moved tonight. I thought he looked comfortable. He made a lot of great cuts, where he didnt necessarily get the pass for the layup, but his cuts loosened up the defense and created open shots for us, so I thought he was very efficient and it looked like he was moving with a lot of confidence tonight, said Thibodeau. Each game, were trying to give him more and more, and just see how he handles it. In practice, hes doing everything now. Well keep increasing it to see how it goes. Its more precautionary. We could have finished it out, but we wanted to keep his minutes around 25 and then well go from there.

--At the Raptors Wednesday morning shootaround, Toronto point guard Jarrett Jack opined on the NBAs controversial new technical-foul policy.

Ive tried the best I can. I think Ive gotten two technicals so far. But the NBA has the right to upgrade their product, as far as our image is concerned, but in the same sense, we dont want to take away the emotions of the game. Were still human at the end of the day, said Jack. If something happens in a split-second and we have a reaction to it that may not be demonstrative to where were not showing the ref, but allow us to react.

"Nobodys going to sit there expressionless, emotionless. Thats a robot and none of us are that. I think if they just give us some leeway, Im sure that as the season goes along, there will kind of be some leniency with the technical fouls, but as of right now, they kind of have to crack the whip and let everybody fall in line.

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With 2021 NBA Free Agency looming, Bulls fired Jim Boylen in the nick of time

With 2021 NBA Free Agency looming, Bulls fired Jim Boylen in the nick of time

In retrospect, we should have all seen it coming. On the final day of the NBA regular season, Arturas Karnisovas fired Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, ending a nearly two-year tenure that saw the team play to a 39-84 record.

“I thought the timing was right right now, going into the lottery and the draft process. It’s an official offseason for us. So we thought it was good timing,” Karnisovas said in a conference call Friday.

The seeding phase of the league’s restart ending Friday and the draft lottery six days ahead does provide a nice bit of symmetry. But was Aug. 14 too long to wait? Karnisovas officially accepted his position as executive vice president of basketball operations on April 13. He brought in new front office hires in Marc Eversley, J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly in early May. Yet Boylen’s tenure dragged into the dog days of summer.

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Why? Karnisovas addressed that on said conference call.

“I took my time for a reason. It was a process to make that decision. Over the last few months, since I was hired in April, I had no timeline,” he said. “This was the right time to make this change.”

“Since it was a very unique situation to be hired in April, we took our time. The restrictions were lifted a little bit more. Interaction was involved.”

That answer echoes Karnisovas’ reputation as a thoughtful and deliberate decision-maker. He’s also said in the past that, in his eyes, forming personal relationships is requisite to holding employees accountable — player or coach. Some will appreciate that approach applied in this context, especially given that he’s inheriting a franchise that has twice in the past has parted ways with coaches on Christmas Eve. Some may not.

But bottom line: The end result is the one the Bulls badly needed to reach, and just in the nick of time.

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The cruciality of moving on from Boylen now is multi-layered. For one, there appears to be burbling optimism that the eight teams excluded from the NBA’s Disney World restart will find a way to resume basketball activities in some capacity soon. It may not be in a second bubble, but even organized OTAs with group activities would be a step up for a Bulls team that has been constrained to voluntary individual workouts with stringent protocols thus far. 

“The players now can work out individually in our practice facility, and our gym is pretty,” Karnisovas said on the call. “So while we’re waiting, if we can get any additional support from the league — again, overall the league regrets that we couldn’t get anything done until now. But I’m hopeful to get something soon.”

Starting the search “immediately” (in Karnisovas’ words) could have a new coach in the Advocate Center doors for all or some of those activities, should they come to fruition. Even if it doesn’t, the Bulls still have plenty of runway before the start of the 2020-21 campaign, which has yet to be finalized.

And in a big picture sense, getting fresh blood in the building has the potential to further a much-needed shift in the Bulls’ league wide perception that was catalyzed by its front office facelift months ago. 

Because this decision makes the organizational message clear: No half-measures. With a new executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager, burgeoning player development personnel, and soon a new coach — particularly, one that will replace a coach that lost games at a historic clip and often prompted questions about his player relationships — there are no caveats required to call this a new era of Bulls basketball; an era in which player development appears to be king, and mediocrity isn’t tolerated.

“The signal is that we’re changing things. It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next,” Karnisovas said. “We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”

The looming free agency period of 2021 makes sending that signal now all the more important. Of course, firing Boylen doesn’t guarantee the Bulls Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo. It might not even get them a meeting. 

For the time being, the Bulls are pretty much locked in place from a roster standpoint. Otto Porter Jr. opting in to his $28.5 million player option — which still qualifies as a near-certainty — and the cap hits the team’s first- and second-round draft choices will eventually invoke will cinch the Bulls in as an over-the-cap club for the 2020-21 season. 

So, the ship likely isn’t getting entirely righted overnight. Whatever your opinion of Boylen, some share of the blame for a 22-win season falls on the roster, as well. However talented you deem the Bulls’ core pieces, new leadership won’t vault them straight to title contention. 

But they don’t necessarily need to, at least not next season. The foundation has to start somewhere, and that summer of 2021 is where things get interesting. To steal a chart from myself, here’s what the Bulls books roughly look heading into that summer, as matters stand right now (via Spotrac): 

  2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 2023-24
Total Cap Allocations $106,027,707 $65,249,867 $9,344,636 $0
Signed Players 13 8 2 0

A possible Lauri Markkanen’s extension is pending, but partial guarantees on the third years of Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young’s contracts, as well as a team option on the third year of Ryan Arcidiacono’s, provides flexibility. Bottom line: They’ll be in a position to make major changes, possibly a splash — assuming the salary cap holds in the vicinity of its current $109.1 million status.

Which makes it all the more imperative that the 2020-21 season not play out as 2019-20 did. The Bulls are an attractive coaching job for the same reasons they were an attractive front office gig — young talent on the roster (albeit largely unproven), own all their own draft capital, cap space coming, big market, rabid fanbase — but to leverage all of that into being a desirable player destination, the soggy hunk of clay that is this rebuild needs to take shape. 

To follow in the footsteps of recent successful rebuilds — think Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers; big-market teams that parlayed modica of promising talent into scrappy overperformance on the court, and, in turn, big moves on the trade and free agent markets — the Bulls need to transform themselves into a team on the rise. 

That doesn’t have to mean a top-four seed or a first-round playoff victory from the jump. But it starts with maximizing the pieces on the team now and improving next season, so that, in the age or perpetual player movement, when opportunity comes knocking, they’ll be prepared to seize it. It’s evident by the results that Boylen wasn’t the person to foster such progression.

A coach with a specialization in player development and relationships — which Karnisvoas said will be a focal point in the search — will be a foundational step. What the changes necessary will look like specifically may have to wait until Karnisovas and Co. have a precise candidate in their sights. Fortunately, there’s just about nowhere to go but up.

For now, it’s at least refreshing to know the Bulls are on the right track.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Once the regular season ended, the official start of the offseason began and the Bulls' first move was to let Jim Boylen go. In an emergency edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, host Jason Goff is joined by Bulls insider K.C. Johnson and Bulls beat writer Rob Schaefer as they discuss the decision.

(1:30) - What led Arturas Karnisovas to the decision to let go, Jim Boylen

(6:00) - Arturas Karnisovas on having full power to make decisions

(16:30) - Potential candidates to replace Jim Boylen

(25:20) - How can a coach get the best out of the current Bulls roster

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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