CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The pushback to new Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen’s hard-driving ways was exhibited by players on his seventh day on the job.
After benching his starters for the final 21 minutes of a franchise-worst 56-point loss to the Celtics on Saturday night, Boylen declared he did so with an intense Sunday practice in mind, reasoning the team would “double-lose” if it suffered a defeat one night and then didn’t have the energy to put in hard work on the floor the next day.
That plan didn’t sit well with Bulls players, who were coming off a back-to-back amid a chaotic stretch that included a coaching change last Monday and who have a trip to Mexico City looming Tuesday. So they talked among themselves, with the Chicago Tribune reporting the players debated in a group text message whether to even show up Sunday. They chose to.
Several of them then notified Boylen of what they believed they needed instead: a players-only meeting focused on an honest assessment of their shortcomings.
Boylen acquiesced, letting the players first have their say together and then holding a team-wide meeting in which he spoke afterward. In all, it took two hours on a Sunday afternoon in which the Bulls looked to pick the pieces up after the embarrassment Saturday dropped them to 6-21.
Practice was called off.
“It was definitely productive,” rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. said of the meeting. “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 felt about what happened last night, how we feel about each other in terms of the team, how we feel about everybody as a whole.
“So I feel like we definitely got somewhere, even though we weren’t on the court running, shooting. We didn’t do any of that. Just us being honest with each other knowing what we need to work on, knowing what needs to take place for us to be a better team. I feel like that was the most important thing for us to do today.”
Carter and guard Zach LaVine both indicated that players were the driving force behind the team meeting being called. LaVine and Justin Holiday were the leaders of the players-only meeting, Carter said.
“He just wanted to know why,” LaVine added of Boylen. “And we told him.”
In his first week on the job, Boylen has called out his players’ conditioning and effort. He has also instituted practices that run nearly two-and-a-half hour and shootarounds that last 90 minutes.
On Saturday, he twice pulled all five starters en masse in favor of the second unit as a tactic to send a message that they weren’t showing the proper heart. That included with 9:02 left in the third quarter, after the Celtics had only outscored the Bulls, 5-3, to open the second half. The starters remained bench the rest of the way. LaVine admitted he was "embarrassed" by the score and to not have the opportunity to compete in the second half.