The Bulls held a players-only meeting on Sunday, just one day removed from a 133-77 blowout loss to the Celtics at home, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The coaching staff eventually joined the players to discuss the team’s status, with the meeting reportedly being led by Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen refuted claims that players called for the meeting, despite multiple players conveying otherwise, Andrews reported in a separate tweet. The mixed messages come just one week after Boylen was promoted to head coach.
Boylen is respected across the league and is known as a longtime assistant who’s spent time on several NBA teams, including seasons under Gregg Popovich on the Spurs from 2013-15. He’s pushed his players to tough standards during long practices and expects the very best out of each of them.
“We’ve had some running . . . some running,” Zach LaVine said Friday, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s OK. [Boylen] wants to make his mark. You have to understand that. I think things will slow up as the season goes on.”
In some ways, Boylen’s approach resembles the hard-nosed, competitive nature that former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had. It can rub some players the wrong way, but it can also lead to success with the right pieces in place.
“Because I’m direct and honest, and they’re going to know exactly where they stand in every moment, every day,” Boylen said, according to Cowley. “The great guys I worked for, that’s what they do, and that’s what I want to do. These guys know that. They know how I operate, and I’ve operated that way since I’ve been here. Direct and honest. Nobody likes to be told the truth when it’s not good for them, but at the end of the day, they know deep down inside that it’s what they needed to hear.”
Boylen’s decision to pull his starting five less than three minutes into the second half on Saturday raised some eyebrows, but he ultimately felt the team wasn’t giving an acceptable effort.
“I think your play is embarrassing,” Boylen said after the game, according to Andrews. “… I worked for [Spurs head coach] Gregg Popovich. He subbed five guys a ton of times. Nobody says a word to him about it. He felt that was best for the team. I felt that was best for the team where we were at. I wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit. If I don’t like the five guys out there, if I don’t like the combination, I’m going to look at a new combination. Take them all out, let them sit there and think about it.”
The Bulls have played without Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis, both of whom are nursing injuries, but Boylen expects the team to work together and give a better effort going forward. Sunday’s extensive meeting allowed those on both sides to state their grievances and clear the air.
“I thought it was very productive,” center Wendell Carter Jr. said, as relayed by Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “The big, main topic for that whole meeting was being truthfully honest and direct. I feel like everybody was very direct with one another, very honest. Everybody told each other how we really, really feel about what happened last night, how we feel about each other in terms of the team, how we feel about everybody as a whole.”
Chicago has games against the Kings, Magic and Spurs scheduled for the upcoming week. The Bulls hold a 6-21 record (second-worst in the league) through the season’s first 27 games.