Bulls Players Reached Out To NBPA About Boylen’s Tactics

It was an odd weekend for the Bulls, who picked up a rare win on Friday, suffered the worst loss in team history on Saturday, then held a pair of meetings on Sunday in lieu of the practice that head coach Jim Boylen had reportedly planned. As we relayed this morning, some Bulls players had originally wanted to skip Sunday’s practice altogether, discussing the idea beforehand in a group chat, but Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen were among those who convinced everyone to show up and voice their concerns.

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), Boylen pushed back on the idea that his team – as a whole – was opposed to practicing on Sunday.

“That is not true that ‘they’ didn’t want to have practice. ‘They’ means everybody. That is not true. I don’t like that narrative,” Boylen said, per Johnson. “The truth is we had a couple guys who thought a Sunday practice was excessive after the week we had. They have to trust me that if I bring them in to practice, I’m going to manage their legs. They didn’t understand that. So I explained to them that you have to trust me that I’m going to do what’s best for this team. What was best was coming in, being together and growing.”

As Johnson explains (via Twitter), it’s not as if Boylen’s tactics are at odds with what Bulls ownership and management wants from him — while his coaching style definitely reflects his personality, Boylen also has an organizational mandate to push his players hard, says Johnson. The head coach said as much on Monday, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times relays.

“My job, I tell them this and you guys have heard me say this, is to try and push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” Boylen said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is, that’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for. I take that very seriously, so I explained that to them.”

As Boylen doubles down on his hard-nosed approach to the head coaching job, Vincent Goodwill and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports report that Bulls players contacted the National Basketball Players Association on Sunday about Boylen’s tactics. Having already gone through three two-and-a-half hour practices since Boylen took over last Monday, the players reached out to the union when it appeared that another grueling practice was on tap for Sunday following a back-to-back set.

Haynes and Goodwill passed along several more fascinating tidbits on the situation in Chicago. We’ll round up a number of the highlights here:

  • Following Saturday’s game, one of the team’s veterans said – in a group text with his teammates – that if anyone showed up to Sunday’s practice, the vet would personally fine them, according to Haynes and Goodwill. Some players agreed, but with Boylen aware of the plan and refusing to relent, the players ultimately decided to show up, even though they had no intention of practicing.
  • Lopez, who wasn’t part of the initial group chat, played a major role in getting the players to back down, per Yahoo’s report. The veteran center also said today that the team “came out the better for it” after Sunday’s meetings, but admitted that he wished Fred Hoiberg had been given the chance to coach a fully healthy roster this season, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com.
  • Sources close to Boylen tell Haynes and Goodwill that the coach wasn’t actually planning to conduct a rigorous practice on Sunday. K.C. Johnson previously reported the same thing, writing that Boylen simply planned to have his players watch film and get some shots up. It’s not clear whether or not that’s revisionist history, considering Boylen said on Saturday night that he pulled his players early on Saturday in a “premeditated” move so that they’d be able to practice on Sunday.
  • Boylen, who has had “numerous verbal confrontations” with Bulls players since the start of the 2018/19 season, went against the usual postgame protocol by making players watch film immediately after last Tuesday’s loss to Indiana. Sources tell Haynes and Goodwill that Bulls players felt like they were being treated like high school athletes, and felt further disrespected when Boylen told the media later the players had to get in better shape.
  • When the Bulls told Boylen on Sunday that they weren’t practicing, Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday were the “most vocal,” sources tell Haynes and Goodwill. Sensing “turmoil” in Chicago, some teams have begun looking into Holiday’s availability, though it’s not yet clear if the Bulls will engage in trade talks, according to Haynes and Goodwill. Previous reports have suggested Holiday, who is on an expiring contract, should be available.
  • Defending his decision to sub out all five starters at once during Saturday’s game, Boylen cited Gregg Popovich and the Spurs when speaking with his team on Sunday. According to Haynes and Goodwill, one player responded by telling Boylen, in essence, that the Bulls “aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.”
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38 thoughts on “Bulls Players Reached Out To NBPA About Boylen’s Tactics

  1. natsfan11

    Boylen seems to act similarly to Thibs and I feel like that’s why he was chosen to be head coach over anyone else

  2. From the outside looking in, I’d say the Bulls’ FO has done a pretty good job (certainly not a bad one) in recent drafts, and – in retrospect – the Butler trade. Not sure where the anger comes from. I have heard (and accept) the criticism that they were too reticent in pulling off some deals when they were good to get them over the top, but that was awhile ago.

    • Djones246890

      It’s not easy managing Generation Snowflake. Especially when a pushover like Hoiberg was their coach for so long.

      I’m sure Hoiberg is a decent guy, but he definitely has a tiny sack.

      These guys are basically just used to doing whatever they want.

      Any guy that wants to be that way will have to go. This team badly needs discipline and accountability.

      • True, it’s hard enough in the business world. I can only imagine what it’s like in the NBA, which has historically been the worst league at imposing discipline on players across generations.

      • ColossusOfClout

        The rebelling part aside, making (or trying to make) a team practice for 2.5 hours on the off day of a 3 games in 4 nights situation, is just plain stupid.

    • justinept

      Gar/Pax always take the safe player. Name a championship contender that got where they are without taking risks. The lack of balls in the front office is why the Bulls, even when they’re good, can’t win a title.

      • Agreed. But I think more in terms of trades when you have more good pieces than you can use or develop. This defines a lot of FOs. But not the best.

  3. bowserhound

    Boylen needs to back off and earn the respect of his players the old fashioned way. Turning the Bulls into the Marines is not going to work for anyone.

      • justinept

        the old fashioned way would be to take some accountability and to work to get better. The Bulls have a lot of problems- from no star talent, to poor front office decisions, to poor coaching. But from the sound bytes given by GarPax and Boylen the past week, you’d think the Bulls only issue is effort. As if, GarPax have done everything right…as if Boylen has done everything right…and if it wasnt for the players disrespecting the game, the Bulls would be title contenders.

        Look for any shred of evidence of those three taking any accountability for this dumpster fire. Short of Paxson paying lip service to the idea, you wont find it.

        You want Boylen to get respect the old fashioned way? Well considering that he usurped the head coaching job, hes already playing from behind. but if he wants it, then he needs to prove he’s working harder. Blowing a whistle while other people run isnt actually work.

        • southbeachbully

          Ummm…..the head coach is the leader of the team. If he calls a practice you show up, especially if your record is as bad as it is. We’re not talking about a “Bobby Knight” coaching style here.

        • whynot101

          As herb brooks use to say after he blew the whistle “AGAIN”!!!! and they won a miracle gold medal :)The 21k lemmings that show up to this dumpster fire of a franchise are the ones to blame, just sayn

  4. zpgreen

    Starting to sound like many of the young players have some sort of sense of entitlement that definitely hasn’t been earned.

    • east333

      Make college a 2 year requirement. No matter what. Teach the kids humility in a new environment before giving them 10-25 million in guaranteed money to act the way they’ve always acted since they were in high school. The hardest league in the world isn’t supposed to be easy.

    • justinept

      They are entitled to their coach abiding by the CBA… Call it a snowflake thing… I call it a legal thing.

      • east333

        I highly doubt any coach would try to violate CBA rules intentionally. We all know the players run this league so when they tweet it’s a national news story. Nice try tho buddy.

      • x%sure

        Well they asked, and found that calling practices9 is legal, as is making 5 subs at once.

  5. TrueOutcomeFan

    Well isn’t this swell. Feels like the best thing that can happen for the Bulls at this point is just getting a top 2 pick in the draft this summer and hoping none of the younger guys get injured in an serious way. Bad to worse to poop emoji.

  6. justinept

    Boylen wants the players to be accountable, which they should be, but he doesn’t want to be held accountable himself. He has been with the organization for a few years and doesn’t seem to understand that the team’s ‘lack of conditioning’ was partly his doing.

    • east333

      How you gonna blame their conditioning when he wasn’t the head coach prior to taking over. He didn’t have the final say so. Again, nice try buddy lol

  7. PeeWeeHerron618

    I would trade anybody who had anything to say, soft ass players

    • dimitrios in la

      Yeah and if they felt he was treating them like high school players, jeesh that’s too kind of him.

  8. Curtisrowe

    I wish this comment thread had the word “snowflake”in it like 10 more times.

  9. Johnny h

    There has to be a last place team every year, right?

    It’s sort of funny that the team with the worst record in the NBA would be complaining about being asked to work harder, is it not? It

    • east333

      I couldn’t agree more. Really shows who wants to be a better player and who just wants to collect a check.

  10. Z-A

    Markelle Fultz will be giving these guys the # of a few specialists…. Sounds like they’re all about to come up with mysterious injuries after getting benched. Butt-hurt is a serious injury, could last 4 to 6 weeks if not properly rehabbed with butt-kisses.

  11. julyn82001

    Wonder how many hours a week did Jordan, Piper at al practice back in the day? Players nowadays are spoiled with the contracts they sign and the money they make. Just a ludicrous difference…

  12. I can understand being upset about 2-and-a-half hour practices, but the Bulls should bench anyone who didn’t want to practice the next day after a 56-point blowout. Because clearly they ain’t interested in going far in the nba.

  13. paladin

    Makes Thibs seem like a cupcake of a coach. I don’t get it. Thibs was too mean so they bring in a nice guy like Hoiberg then they don’t like Freddy because he is too soft. Reminds me of Sgt. Carter and a bunch of Gomer Pyles…..Surprise, Sorprise , Surprise. the devil you don’t know is quite often worse than the one you do know. Deal with it boys. You cash the checque so do the dance.

  14. Jason Lancaster

    All this talk about those allegedly spoiled millionaire athletes has me wondering. Where’s the criticism of the spoiled billionaire that owns the team? The guy that made his fortune dodging taxes? The guy that refused to pay Phil Jackson? The guy that couldn’t afford to give Jordan a raise? The guy that supports GarPax 100%, despite years of baffling decision making?

    You want to hate on a bunch of kids that get paid to play basketball? I don’t understand. The owner is worse in every possible way, and his front office is garbage. Why do they get a pass?

    • x%sure

      Why did you give him a pass?– didn’t even mention his name.

      The players are not kids. Their main feature is not winning.

  15. Nebraska Tim

    Front office puts together a terrible defensive team.

    Terrible defensive team gets destroyed in a game.

    Terrible coach tries to bully players into additional practice time instead of letting their bodies rest (which all the actually good teams and good coaches do).

    Because, you know, they lost because they didn’t practice enough.

    Lots of soft internet tough guys calling out “snowflakes” on here as if the Bulls just need to “toughen up” to be a real NBA team.

    It starts at the top. The owner sucks. The GM sucks (bottom 5 in the league). The new coach sucks. And most of the players suck.

    Trying hard only gets you so far when you’re a team that severely lacks talent.

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