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Tensions on rise between Zach LaVine, coach Jim Boylen after quick hook

John Paxson doubles down on Bulls commitment to Jim Boylen coaching next season: 'He's doing the right things'

Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen talks with guard Zach LaVine (8) during a break in the action in the first half against the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Tribune News Service via Getty I

It took just 3:27.

That’s how long into the game it was Friday night before Bulls coach Jim Boylen pulled Zach LaVine and sat him on the bench a while. Miami had raced out to a 13-0 lead in those three-and-a-half minutes, and Boylen was frustrated with LaVine’s defense citing “three egregious mistakes.” Here’s what the coach said postgame, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
“I thought he needed a break. I thought he needed to come in and think about it. I felt there were some defensive mistakes that didn’t need to be made,” Boylen said. “I thought he needed to come over and think about it for a minute. I’ve done that a couple times this year.”

LaVine did not take that well and felt singled out.

“I guess I was to blame for it. I’ve got pulled early before by him. I guess that’s just his thing to do,” LaVine said. “I have to take it in stride. What did he say I got pulled for?”

Told that Boylen used the phrase “three egregious defensive mistakes,” LaVine turned sarcastic.

“Zach LaVine got 13 points scored on him, I guess. Or was it the starting five? I don’t remember,” he said. “I thought I was trying to do my job out there. I can’t do anything about that. I just have to control what I can control. I can’t control my minutes.”

This is not the first time Boylen has pulled LaVine to send a message this season, and he has been public about the need for LaVine and Laurie Markkanen to be better if the Bulls are going to be better.

While Boylen and his old-school approach — the team actually had a factory-style time-clock to punch in for work during training camp — has the backing of owner Michael Reinsdorf and team management, there have been running tensions between him and some players since he took the job. Players can be okay with a coach who pushes them or runs longer practices if they respect him, but that respect is earned. Whether Boylen has that with the Bulls players remains a question.

For Bulls fans, this was a season the team was expected to take a step forward, to push for a playoff spot and not be 5-11, and certainly not to have a bottom five in the league offense. There are problems with this rebuild and management is going to have to take a step back and look at the big picture. And look at itself in the mirror.