As we relayed on Sunday, the Bulls held a pair of meetings on Sunday following the worst loss in franchise history on Saturday, with the players participating in the first meeting before being joined by the coaches for the second one. K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune and Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic have since provided more details on what happened on Sunday, reporting that those meetings were a compromise of sorts.
As Johnson and Mayberry explain, new head coach Jim Boylen pulled his starters early on Saturday in a “premeditated” move, vowing to put the team through another grueling practice on Sunday. Having played back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, Bulls players pushed back against the idea of another intense practice on Sunday, using a team-wide group text to discuss the possibility of boycotting that practice, or showing up at the team facility together and then walking out.
However, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez expressed concern about the “unprofessionalism” of a potential boycott, sources tell Mayberry. Veteran Bulls were also concerned about the impact that a major act of rebellion could have on the club’s younger, less established players, Mayberry adds. Ultimately, the players decided to show up and voice their concerns with Boylen and his staff, which led to the compromise — the practice didn’t happen, but the two meetings did.
Boylen’s initially-stated desire to push the Bulls hard again on Sunday after back-to-back games reflects the approach he has taken since replacing Fred Hoiberg as the team’s head coach a week ago. As Mayberry details, Boylen has been putting the Bulls through long, rigorous practices since taking over last Monday.
Last Tuesday, for instance, according to Mayberry, the team’s shootaround in Indianapolis exceeded 90 minutes. After the Bulls lost to the Pacers that night, Boylen immediately made players watch clips of their turnovers and poor defensive rebounding, then emerged from the locker room to tell reporters that his players needed to improve their conditioning and toughness.
“We needed to get a lot of stuff off our chest and be transparent,” Zach LaVine said on Sunday, according to Johnson. “I don’t think the players’ toughness should ever be questioned. I think that’s on us. I think that is a little bit of what we discussed in our meeting.”
For his part, Boylen has shown no regrets about the tactics he has taken, and believes they’re sending the right message to his players.
“They’re learning how I operate,” Boylen said, per Mayberry. “They’re learning what I value. And if I think a group out there isn’t doing what they need to be doing as a collective unit, I’m going to sub. Maybe I’ll sub three. Maybe I’ll sub five. What they have to understand is there are obligations and options. And we’re cleaning up what goes on. You’re obligated to do the things I ask them to do. And they’re obligated to play the right way. And when they’re not, my job is to try to fix that.”
When they announced last week that he would replace Hoiberg, the Bulls didn’t give Boylen the interim tag, suggesting they expect him to finish out the season and perhaps even remain in the head coaching role in 2019/20 and beyond. Despite a rocky start, there’s no indication the franchise won’t stick to that plan, so it’s in the Bulls’ best interests to make sure that the players and their coach are on the same page. After Sunday’s meetings, both sides seemed a little more comfortable, at least for now.
“Nobody is going to make more mistakes than I do,” Boylen said, per Johnson. “I have a lot of responsibility and make a lot of decisions. I’m not going to get them all right. But this is not a hobby for me. We’re going to keep working and grinding and communicating and hugging and crying and laughing and moving forward.”