Everything with the Bulls this offseason has the feel of taking objectively good news and then in the back of your mind think “great, but....Jim Boylen though”
Like this training camp dispatch from Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, focused on rookie Coby White. There’s good nuggets in there about White’s older brother being a coach for him, and his surprisingly NBA-ready physicality, but a lot of it is coming from Boylen.
So this is the same Boylen who will pepper in “spirit”, an oddity like “we’re thankful for him”, and then you remember this is the same guy who began the season heaping just-as-effusive praise on goddamned Gar Forman.
Some other early Boylen-isms making its way into his first training camp as an NBA head coach include “another step up the mountain”, a callback to his “top of the mountain” edict on media day.
Of course, there’s also his more troubling opinions on toughness. Thankfully, after a bleak first day, both Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford were back in action. But I worry he’s once again conflating injury with weakness when he suggests Carter recovers because he’s ‘tough’. Or the ‘joke’ regarding Gafford’s comeback being “We gave him a glass of milk and sent him out there.” The Bulls proclaim to be so big on Boylen as a culture-setter, I wonder if there’s any concern that he’s fostering a culture of not admitting injury.
The Bulls are holding very long practices, which Boylen (and Kris Dunn as well, to be fair when it concerns player buy-in) attributes as good for them mentally. But it may not be good for them physically, at least not so early before the season.
“I don’t want Zach and Lauri coming out of practice. They’ve got to take every rep, and they’ve been doing it.’’
This is all picking nits, but that’s what listening to Jim Boylen can make you do. He just constantly sounds so in over his head and out of touch (and then doubles-down on it) that it’s difficult to parse through the dumb noise and try and figure out if he can actually coach.
Like Stephen Noh (also at The Athletic) pointed out, Boylen’s stated desire to push the pace is great on its face, but nearly every NBA coach says this. And most notably Fred Hoiberg did this too, including a citation of a meaninglessly small sample size like the Bulls keep doing with the great February of 2019. And as Noh pointed out (like we did at the end of last year), even fluky Feburary wasn’t that great:
In February, the Bulls went 5-5 and opened up their offense. But they need to play even faster. They were only 15th in the league in transition frequency during that month, and they have young athletes up and down the roster that should let them break into the top five this year.
Boylen is difficult to take seriously, so it’s hard to buy in to any hype. Pushing the pace, load management, three points being more than two...these are all simple modern tenets that Boylen claims to understand, but we will need to see it in actual games. I guess to give him the benefit of the doubt, it’s less meaningful that we believe him than that the players do.