NBA rumors: Bulls frustrated after loss to Magic

K.C. Johnson: LaVine: “Guys are frustrated. We know we’re better. We know we should be beating some of these teams. Frustration has to turn into something sooner than later.”

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Added Zach LaVine, who scored 21 of his 30 points in the fourth but also had a crucial turnover late: “We didn’t play hard enough until the fourth quarter.” Don’t blame Young. He played just 14 minutes, his second-fewest this season, in another clear sign that Donovan is trying to find the right mix for his new toys. “We’re just still trying to find our identity. Who are we going to be as a team? How we’re going to play? What we’re going to do?” Young said. “On the defensive side, I think we still have a lot of, ‘What are we doing out there?’ Or, ‘How are we supposed to do this?’ It’s a lot of thinking that’s still going on. And trying to process how we need to play and what lineups need to be out there and how these lineups all work together.”
Thanks to Carter’s 19 points and 12 rebounds, as well as a defense that looked like it had somewhere else to be all evening, the Bulls dropped to 3-8 since the roster facelift, losing 115-106. After the game, coach Billy Donovan wasn’t about to sugarcoat this one. “We are not in a position right now to be looking at anybody and thinking we’re better than anybody,’’ Donovan said. “It doesn’t make a difference who we line up against. It could be a college team or high school team. If we’re not going [to] really be desperate and have that sense of urgency, I think this idea of when we sit there and say, ‘Well this team’s record is this.’ ‘This is one of the worst teams.’ Well, where are we at?’’
"And I think there’s sometimes this perception of ‘Oh wow, this is a team that is vying for a championship.’ No! We’re not. We’ve got to build those habits and we have not built them on a consistent enough level. “I don’t look at it all as Minnesota’s record, Orlando’s record. We don’t have that luxury. Because you know what? Is Orlando saying the same thing about us? Is Minnesota saying the same thing about us?”
LaVine did have one of his better offensive seasons, but still felt like he was somewhat handcuffed and could have done more. The same can’t be said for Markkanen, who privately ridiculed the offense most of the season.
The only person I still have respect for in the Bulls organization is Doug Collins. I believe he should be used to find a new general manager and get a real NBA coach. Do you think there is any hope of this happening? — Tom H. According to multiple sources, Collins and Boylen had a falling out. Boylen, the sources said, no longer wanted Collins sitting in on coaches’ meetings. Collins is in the background for now.
After most every loss this season, and there have been a lot of them, Jim Boylen has remained positive more often than not with his postgame comments to reporters. That changed Wednesday night following the Bulls’ 115-108 loss to the Timberwolves that partially ruined Lauri Markkanen’s return. “I didn't like it. They got 25 percent of their missed shots back. That's too many. Can't happen. I challenged our group,” Boylen said. “We have to be tougher and more competitive in those moments when there are 50-50 balls in the air. We’ve got to do a better job.
“I don’t care who's coming back. I don't care who's been out, who's working on a minute restriction. I didn’t think we were tough enough tonight and I didn't like it. You can't let them shoot 50 percent and then not rebound the ball. Can’t do it. I didn’t like it. “I understand what we're operating under and it's difficult on the group, but we've got to be tougher. I want us to rebound the ball better. I want us to be more physical. And I didn’t think our physicality was good enough. I understand that we're trying to work guys back in. I understand we played 11 guys and those things are difficult. But our effort on the defensive board has to be better.”
“What I’m talking about — and it’s not negativity; I’m coaching this team — is you gotta play your minutes with force whether you haven’t played in two months or you have. Play hard. Compete. Rebound the ball. That’s all I’m talking about. You can’t control making shots. We had I think four point-blank layups we missed and eight or 10 wide-open 3s we missed. We can’t control those. But we can control our effort on the defensive board.”
So how did the Bulls get here? Zach LaVine has some thoughts. “There’s a lot of different factors, man,” he said. “I don’t think some people played up to par. I don’t think we did the right things, game to game. We fight, but we obviously don’t get the end result that we need. So something’s got to change. You’ve got to do something to get those wins and stop stockpiling (those) losses. I think there’s a lot of things that you’ve got to take into consideration and you’ve got to look at in the offseason.”
So how did the Bulls get here? Zach LaVine has some thoughts. “There’s a lot of different factors, man,” he said. “I don’t think some people played up to par. I don’t think we did the right things, game to game. We fight, but we obviously don’t get the end result that we need. So something’s got to change. You’ve got to do something to get those wins and stop stockpiling (those) losses. I think there’s a lot of things that you’ve got to take into consideration and you’ve got to look at in the offseason.”
Just got home saw a tweet about Zach Being annoyed again about a Boylen timeout. After the timeout Zach shakes his head and seems to say "why call a timeout down F'ing 10"

http://twitter.com/_MarcusD3_/status/1231429552456552448
When asked if his penchant for late timeouts in lopsided games is worth the risk of mounting player frustration, Boylen downplayed the question. “He hasn’t said a word to me about it agitating him,” Boylen said specifically of LaVine. “I don’t know if you’re reading his mind on that or if you’re just making that assumption that that’s what he’s upset about. He hasn’t said a word to me about it. He’s very respectful about me coaching the team and me trying to help the team. So you’ll have to ask him.”
Asked again if it’s worth the risk if it is, in fact, getting under his players’ skin, Boylen flatly dismissed the idea. “I don’t think it is agitating guys,” he said. “You’ll have to ask him. I’m sure you will.”
KC Johnson: Zach LaVine said he and Jim Boylen talked about some “player-coach things we talk about every once in awhile” postgame. About Boylen’s late timeouts with Bulls out of it, which cameras have shown LaVine reacting to twice now, LaVine said: “That’s what he does. I’m not the coach.”
KC Johnson: LaVine: “He told me he likes working on things we do in practice. He’s the coach. He can call timeout if he wants. I just wish we were in the game. It’s frustrating. Obviously, you never know what can happen. But you’re down 10 with 30 seconds left, it’s tough to stay locked in.”
Boylen yanked LaVine for Ryan Arcidiacono just three minutes, 27 seconds after tipoff for what Boylen termed “three egregious defensive mistakes that I’ve talked to him about.” And while Boylen has pulled LaVine early before, LaVine hasn’t reacted with as much pushback as he did following the embarrassing home defeat.
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.” Did LaVine feel singled out on a night the starters collectively came out flat and, ultimately, were outscored 62-46? “If you’re just gonna pull me, yeah, for sure,” LaVine said. “But that’s not my decision.”
KC Johnson: Zach LaVine: "Atlanta, bottom-five team just like us, we shouldn't get blown out by them at all. They were out there moving the ball, playing well with pace and that's what we should be looking like and we have to get to that."
Malika Andrews: Zach LaVine: “There’s pride in playing for the Bulls, but we need to make our name better. The things that are going on with us — we are looked down upon. It doesn’t feel good going out there and being the underdog or teams disrespecting you and not looking at you as equal...”
"We had a very, very competitive practice," Boylen said. "I felt like we had some guys who are sick of not winning games." Dunn agreed, adding that while the team is staying positive, being tied for second to last in the league is draining. "It is frustrating to be on a losing streak," Dunn said. "We are trying to figure out ways to get that monkey off our back."
The Bulls are working to get at least a second-round pick in a trade for Lopez and his $14 million expiring contract. But there have also been rumors of a possible buyout as the Feb. 7 trade deadline approaches. If teams sense that Lopez will be bought out, there's less of an incentive to give up a draft asset before the deadline. The Bulls would likely only accept another expiring contract back for him in a trade, and getting the money to match up with Lopez's salary presents a challenge. For now, the Bulls position is that they plan to keep Lopez for the season, barring a trade, because of the veteran leadership he provides on a young team. But the situation appears fluid.
The company line is that the chaos is all just a byproduct of change, and change is hard. Hoiberg was too player friendly, too laid back, and Boylen’s discipline-first approach is what these young Bulls need. “Player development is most important. And Jim realizes that. And, he’s come in and placed demands on guys,” Forman said. “He’s been very honest, up-front with guys. Our feeling is that he’s going to push them. And that’s difficult sometimes because it’s a big change. But we think, what happened” Sunday, “I really do believe it’s a blessing.”
It’ll likely to get worse, though, with Portis, Lopez and Parker all likely to be traded, weakening the roster without necessarily garnering significant returns. (Portis would probably command the most in a deal and could still be a part of the Bulls’ future if the price is right.)
Allow me to start with a bit of housekeeping. I was unfair to Antonio Blakeney and former coach Fred Hoiberg. In my story last week about the Bulls’ waning faith in Hoiberg, I wrote that Blakeney directed some colorful language toward Hoiberg in asking why he was being removed from a game earlier this season. I cited team sources in the report — which The Athletic stands by. But I didn’t hear the comment myself, and while scrambling to report and write the piece I never gave Blakeney nor Hoiberg a chance to address the allegation. I’ve spent much of this hectic past week trying to make it right as best I can, and after careful consideration of a handful of ideas I settled on this format. Blakeney denies ever saying it. Hoiberg, who has chosen to not be quoted, said Blakeney didn’t say it either. Blakeney respectfully refuted the allegation on Twitter upon learning of the comments I attributed to him in my story. I immediately retweeted Blakeney’s response and realized then I had been unfair. To be fair to Blakeney, who has been professional and a stand-up guy since I began covering him last season, I circled back to him so that he could address the allegation.
Here, in full, is Blakeney’s side of it: “Obviously, I saw the report saying I cursed coach Fred asking him why I came out of the game. No, I didn’t say that. Obviously, me being a younger player in the league and a minimum (salary) guy who is just trying to make it, an undrafted guy, that’s nothing I would ever even think in my mind to say. I’ve never been that type of person. Even in high school. I was a McDonald’s All-American. I never cursed the coach or anything like that. So I don’t really know where that came from, but I kind of just wanted to clear the air on that because I don’t want that image out there of me. I don’t want anybody to think that of me. I don’t want any coach in the league or any coach anywhere to think that I would say that to them.
Finally, I will say this about Boylen. For a coach whose players only four days ago threatened to not show up to practice, Boylen sure did seem to have command of the huddle. As Boylen gave instruction, players stood at attention, eyes focused squarely on him. If he hadn’t yet gotten his message across to his satisfaction, he grabbed a player by the wrist to make sure he finished. Maybe it means nothing. But it sure looked like a good sign.
KC Johnson: Parker: "Everybody is telling me the truth---to stay ready. They’re not telling me things I want to hear. They’re not pointing fingers. And personally, I know I’ve done my job to embrace Jim as the head coach. I’ve been nothing but welcoming of him. I'll continue that."
"What I have to do is install this thing and play in the right way to go where I want to go, and outside noise, it's always going to be there, is part of this job and this business. I just take this as a challenge," said Boylen, who worked for the San Antonio Spurs for a couple of seasons under coach Greg Popovich before arriving in Chicago in 2015. "In San Antonio, they have standards of behavior and standards of play, and we are establishing those in here, but we can't do that without practicing, and we cannot do that without being pushed. We are in a different place, nothing wrong with that, but we are going to work hard," Boylen said.
"I think everything got blown out of proportion, but we are in a good state, the team is good and we are all together," Bulls guard Zach LaVine said. "Always going on the road ... in a different country where we can all be together is good because we can bond. I think it's going to be a good time here."
For the first time, Markkanen addressed his thinking, which led to two hours of team meetings to hash out an emotional first week under new coach Jim Boylen. “I wanted to have my opinion and let players know what I think,” Markkanen told the Tribune on Wednesday. “I think I can be one of the leaders of the team. That’s what I suggested. That’s how it went.”
After Chicago Bulls players discussed the idea of boycotting Sunday afternoon's practice, Zach LaVine spoke with head coach Jim Boylen one-on-one and tried to clear the air to forge a path forward. LaVine said he wouldn't characterize the interaction as an apology, but rather he had to "elaborate on thoughts." "You just want to be real with people," LaVine told ESPN. "There shouldn't be any clouds. I think of myself as one of the leaders on the team. I just wanted to voice my opinion to them." He continued: "This is a business, this isn't a dictatorship. We are all grown men, so everybody has a voice."
In the second meeting on Sunday, the idea of forming a leadership committee was discussed, multiple sources told ESPN. The idea is that in the future, those appointed to the committee would be able to act as a liaison between the players and coaches. It has been made clear that Boylen has been empowered and encouraged by Bulls management to use a firm hand in changing the Bulls' culture. The way Boylen handled Sunday's meetings has reinforced management's belief in the new coach, sources said. They are fully on-board with Boylen's tough-love leadership style.
Malika Andrews: Boylen was asked about reports that players contacted NBPA. He said: "That's great. They have every right to do that. I am not taking personally. Call 'em. I know the rules. So, yeah. No problem. It doesn't deter from that we're going to work and we're going to practice."
KC Johnson: Boylen said he originally planned hard practice in wake of Celtics' loss because he was "upset we weren't playing well" but changed his mind because he felt meeting was more productive. Also, he said he won't give players practice plan in advance because he wants strong mindset
KC Johnson: Boylen on support from ownership/management: "They believe in the way that I think this should be done. There’s no differing philosophy on what we think is important. It’s very freeing to know I can coach this team with passion and emotion and directness.”
“My job is to try to push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” Boylen said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for.” The fact Boylen cited ownership is telling. Phil Jackson praised Boylen to Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after Boylen met with the Hall of Fame coach last summer. And according to team and league sources, executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman raved to ownership about Boylen’s message during Sunday’s meeting, which Paxson and Forman attended.
According to multiple sources, Sunday’s scheduled practice served as the tipping point for some players’ frustration. But the fact Boylen used two five-man substitutions in Saturday’s 133-77 loss to the Celtics — the second coming just 2 minutes, 58 seconds into the second half with the Celtics leading by a mere 5-3 in the half — and constant public browbeating that featured Boylen publicly questioning players’ toughness and conditioning were bigger issues, per sources.
After a close win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday and a 56-point rout Saturday night by the Boston Celtics, Boylen, finishing his first week as head coach, called for a Sunday practice — an NBA protocol no-no with the Bulls just completing a back-to-back. After taking the helm from fired coach Fred Hoiberg on Monday, Boylen held three two-and-a-half-hour practices in his first week that included extra wind sprints and players doing military-style pushups. Calling for another lengthy practice after the back-to-back led to a near-mutiny and caused the players to reach out to the union, sources said.
When Boylen arrived Sunday, the players stood and told Boylen they weren’t practicing, sources said, with the sides meeting to express their issues. Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday were the most vocal, sources said. Boylen repeatedly referenced his days on the San Antonio Spurs staff and instances in which coach Gregg Popovich pulled all five players off the floor to send a message, sources said. A player responded, sources said, telling Boylen in essence that they aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.
Saturday night’s 133-77 loss to the Celtics was followed with another set of pointed postgame comments by Boylen and the promise of another grueling practice session Sunday — this one after back-to-back games. Those events led to a tipping point that could either lead to positive results down the road or a complete mess of a season. That grueling practice never took place Sunday because the Bulls players discussed a boycott of practice, multiple sources told The Athletic. Veteran players spent Saturday night trying to talk Boylen out of a Sunday session, sources said, and when their pleas were rejected, they began bouncing around other ideas in a team-wide group text.
The texts started Saturday night and carried into Sunday morning. One idea that had significant support, according to sources, was the players simply not showing up to the Advocate Center on Sunday. A preliminary plan was to gather at one player’s house and wait for the phones to begin buzzing. That plan fizzled because Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez spoke up, voicing their concerns about the unprofessionalism of that potential act of rebellion, as well as the impact such a stance could have on the roster’s younger, less established players, sources said.
Cooler heads seemed to prevail by the time Boylen and players met with the assembled media. Despite mixed messages about which side initiated the meetings, Boylen or the players, they presented a united front and insisted common ground was found. “It was something that we needed to do, and I am happy with the results,” said Zach LaVine, who along with Justin Holiday led the players’ meeting, according to rookie Wendell Carter Jr.
When asked about the method potentially embarrassing professional players, Boylen turned the players’ performance back on them. “I think your play’s embarrassing,” he said. “Me subbing them is me saving them, maybe. Maybe we saved them.”
KC Johnson: Exec VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman both attended today’s 2nd meeting. This is significant because, along with Paxson’s previously publicly stated goal for Boylen to return next season, it underscores the organizational mandate Boylen feels he has to push players.
Bulls players are pushing back on Jim Boylen's aggressive coaching style just three games into his tenure as head coach. After suffering the worst loss in franchise history on Saturday night, Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday led a two-hour, players-only meeting in lieu of the practice Boylen had planned for the team on Sunday.
Team president John Paxson has committed to Boylen beyond this season, and that pledge appears to have given Boylen more latitude to be perhaps more aggressive. After Boston got up 13-0 against the Bulls on Saturday night, Boylen pulled all five starters. He pulled the entire group again midway through the quarter and the starting unit remained on the bench for the final 21 minutes of the contest. After the game, Boylen explained he didn't like the effort he was seeing on the court and wanted to see if the reserve group could "right the ship."
KC Johnson: Per multiple sources, players started a group text exchange debating whether to show up at practice facility today. They ultimately decided to show up and told coaching staff they wanted players only meeting, which was followed by the meeting with coaches.
KC Johnson: Wendell Carter Jr. on who changed practice plans: "We both agreed on something, the players and the coaches. We came to them as men, we talked and told them how we felt and they responded very well." If coaches didn't respond well, that's where it would've gotten interesting.
KC Johnson: Boylen on who decided no practice: "I think it was just a communication, a little bit of both. This is what I think is necessary today. And they felt they needed a voice to talk too. And that’s cool. That’s good. This is a family thing. This is open lines of communication."
Malika Andrews: Boylen said that he benched the starters for final 21 min b/c they’d be better served having a hard practice than exerting effort in a losing battle. Carter said today “we came to them as men and talked to them about how we felt” and pushed to hold meeting instead of practice.
KC Johnson: Boylen said there are open lines of communication between him and players. “We’re still learning each other,” he said.
KC Johnson: Wendell Carter Jr. said Bulls had long team meeting. Won’t reveal details. Main topic was “being direct and honest” and told each other “how we really felt about each other.”
At one point during a mid-November game at Milwaukee, guard Antonio Blakeney took exception to Hoiberg subbing him out and asked, in what team sources say was a show of rebellion, “Why the fuck are you taking me out?” His query was posed loudly in front of the team bench. Hoiberg later re-inserted him without reproach, sources said. Two weeks later, Blakeney mysteriously was supplanted in the rotation by Cameron Payne, whose inconsistency caused him to slip from emergency starter to third-stringer.
Vincent Goodwill: Mirotic does have a concussion and broken bones in his face. Expect Bobby Portis' suspension to be significant
Vincent Goodwill: This has been three years in the making, a source said. Mirotic has broken bones in his face, apparently instigated, and Portis punched him
Darnell Mayberry: Mirotic is out indefinitely...Bulls are evaluating disciplinary action. Suspension for Ports likely. Hearing league office is now involved.
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May 12, 2021 | 9:18 pm EDT Update
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