Everyone check their cards to see who had ‘after three games’ in the ‘when would the Bulls get tired of Jim Boylen’s super-coachy midseason training camp nonsense’ pool...
The Bulls not-interim head coach had a truly bizarre strategy this weekend: sabotaging his own team by pulling starters towards a franchise-worst loss in order to ensure they’d have a good practice the day after. Keep in mind that the team had already gone through multiple intensely long practices since Boylen took over the prior week, and this Sunday was the team’s only off day in a three-games-in-four-nights stretch.
If you questioned whether the players would be ok with this, you know the NBA better than the Bulls do.
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.
The Athletic’s reporting specifies Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen as the two that kept that boycott from happening.
Eventually the team settled on the plan of going to the Bulls vaunted building, but not practicing and holding a players-only meeting instead. Malika Andrews of ESPN.com reported that Boylen was tipped off to this, and got out in front of it by approving the meeting in lieu of practice. Oh, and both John Paxson and Gar Forman were present in a second meeting, which included the coaches alongside the players.
The Tribune’s KC Johnson painted a different, slightly less chaotic picture of the day’s events, reporting that only ‘two or three’ players were advocating ditching the Advocate Center, and “veterans” - which reads to me like a larger contingent than reported elsewhere - demanded attendance.
But what got me in KC’s story was this pretty hilarious attempt by Boylen to convince people it was actually his idea all along!
At one point, multiple sources said, Boylen had a colleague reveal that he merely planned to hold a film session and have individual players get shots up instead of the hard practice he had hinted at late Saturday. Boylen did this, the sources said, to show players how they need to learn to trust him.
“Um. No. Ah, I think it was just a communication, a little bit of both,” Boylen said, when asked who decided not to practice. “This is what I think is necessary today. And players felt they needed a voice and to talk too. And that’s cool. That’s good.
Good god, man.
As for other details of the meetings themselves, Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday led the players-only one. And after the fact, both LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. offered some platitudes how it was good to clear the air, or whatever.
They weren’t going to reveal anything, and it’s unlikely anything said would mean differently than the fact that hings have quickly fallen apart for ‘the program’ under Boylen. He’s likely already lost the team, at least to the point where he won’t be able to meaningfully make a difference.
I am also not encouraged that this fiasco, as embarrassing as it is, will bring any change at higher levels either: the team should perform better simply because they’re healthier, GarPax won’t feel any heat because they never do, and last year they had one player punching another out and they still were delusionally happy with ‘Bulls culture’. They’ll probably beat the Kings on Monday and the meeting will be credited.
So things are likely ‘fine’, but only in the sense that it’s the same stasis of garbage this franchise is continually in. At least we as fans have some added life lately in making fun of it, and can look forward to what the ol’ ball coach comes up with next, and what the #EntitledWithUs players say in response.