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National media is trolling the Bulls… but for the right reasons?

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Chicago Bulls are getting national media attention for all the wrong reasons - Locked On Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have been a disaster. Plain and simple. If you’re reading this you probably know the situation that’s unfolded over the course of the last 10 days.

Fred Hoiberg is fired last Monday. Jim Boylen is named head coach. Bulls practice Tuesday (2.5-hours). Bulls lose to the Pacers on Wednesday and watch film immediately after. Bulls head home and practice for well over two hours on Thursday. These practices held by newly appointed head coach Jim Boylen included players doing wind sprints and push-ups.

You still with me? Good.

Oklahoma City comes to town on Friday, Lauri Markkanen hits a game-winner at home in Jim Boylen’s first win. All is right in Bulls Nation for 12-hours. Saturday comes, the Boston Celtics open up on 17-0 run and Boylen yanks the starters. The Bulls started the second half down 23 when again Boylen goes to his second five-man substitution. The starters don’t play the rest of the game and the Bulls lose in historic fashion, 133-77.

What comes after includes Boylen calling the Bulls play embarrassing, mentioning pulling his starters in order to have a hard practice on Sunday, players being vocally frustrated, a text chain that nearly ends in a boycott, and so much more in between that has landed them back in the national spotlight.

What’s clear is the Bulls are the butt end of every joke in the NBA right now. What isn’t clear is why some of the ones with the largest audiences continue to point the blame in the wrong direction. I’ve compiled some of the takes by analysts, insiders, former players, and hosts over the past few days – some good, but most make me feel like I’m in that scene of Liar, Liar where Jim Carrey’s character is kicking his own ass.

Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN NBA Insider

If you know anything about the NBA, you know who Woj is. The most connected insider in all professional sports. He breaks almost all the breaking news around the league. Here’s the rundown of Woj facts:

  1. Jim Boylen has the full support of the front office and ownership
  2. This team is young, lacks talent, and has no stars
  3. Bulls management group overcompensating with their coaching hires
  4. Executives around the league believe Boylen needs to “be cautious”
  5. “This [style] is what the Bulls want from [Boylen]”
  6. Woj believes Boylen has relationships, does not believe ‘iron fist’ mentality to be long-term

I was surprised by Scott Van Pelt’s backing of practicing after the 56-point loss. Again, no mention of starters pulled. He does bring up the players reportedly telling Boylen he’s not Gregg Popovich, to return the Bulls are not the Spurs.

Where I can meet him in the middle is the mention of do you really need two-hour practices, 90-minute shootarounds, and watching film immediately after games? No, but the players also can meet in the middle and not boycott. Fair, and ultimately that’s what they did (thanks to Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen).  He does finish with “let’s practice, let’s work, let’s get better. Sound like a plan?”.

I sure as hell hope so. The bigger issue is no mention of management, which might speak to the level of safety at the top which in turn needs no mention at all.

The most intriguing part of this five-minute segment: Take a look at the headline underneath Woj (4:05). It reads “Bulls Head Coach Jim Boylen on The Woj Pod Tuesday”. It’s two days after the supposed release, nothing. Maybe it’s on delay? Weird timing nonetheless.

*Cue Stranger Things theme*

Kevin Durant, Bill Simmons Podcast

It took about 45 minutes into Bill Simmons Podcast to ask Kevin Durant if he had heard about the Bulls recent problems. Durant says it’s known that teams don’t hold practice after back-to-back games during the season. When asked about 2.5-hour practices during the season he said,  “no way”. He followed with a quick story about P.J. Carlesimo wanting to hold a shootaround after landing in a different city in his rookie year. The most interesting part was his follow up on how often teams actually get to practice during the season.

Jeff Van Gundy, ESPN Broadcast (Raptors vs. Warriors)

In a game the Bulls weren’t even playing in, they managed to be the topic of conversation on Wednesday night’s ESPN broadcast. Jeff Van Gundy starts by proclaiming “The Chicago Bulls don’t have to play any more back-to-backs.” Nice shot, deserving too.

When asked if Van Gundy felt like the team should have practiced on Sunday, he lost me sarcastically saying,

“No, I think it’s always good when you lose by 56 at home to stage a mutiny. It’s been overlooked now, no one is even talking about, they got beat by 56 and then 30 at the next game.”

I get it, there is blame to go around. Fine. Again, fails to mention the starting five being pulled a mere 2:58 into the second half and none return. The Bulls were down 23, the loss would have been bad but not of historic proportions.

One final jab at the players after Allen Iverson’s “we talkin’ about practice” is jokingly brought up, Van Gundy says at least he had the talent to back it up. Van Gundy has been critical in the past of the Bulls management but the old ‘coaches protect coaches’ narrative is where he lands with this one.

Dan Patrick, The Dan Patrick Show

Besides Woj just merely stating facts, Dan Patrick’s take on the situation might be the most agreeable of any on this list. There are a lot of points he brings up in five minutes, some ‘pro-player’ and some ‘pro-coach/management’.

In his points backing players, he mentions the NBA is a players league. Agreed, a league that’s driven by its stars and the attention it’s players get. He mentions that making a long-time assistant a head coach only works if the players REALLY love him. In this case, not every Bulls player was fully invested in Boylen.

He mentions push-ups are probably extreme. He also takes a jab at Jabari Parker saying he should do pushups, but the rest of the Bulls should get healthy before you drive them into the ground. He goes on to say that it’s a bigger problem than just the players, but rather the direction this team is headed now. Do you want to win? Are you tanking? What are we doing here?

I’m with him so far.

He makes the argument that players have been coddled since AAU through college and on to the NBA.  He questions if players want to be coached nowadays. Maybe it matters about resume status of the coach in today’s NBA?

Fair, I’m still listening.

Then it goes a bit off the rails, he says, “What have these players won to earn respect to want to boycott? What have you won?” Keep in mind, Lauri Markkanen was one of the players AGAINST a no-show on Sunday. Kris Dunn has played in ONE game this season. Bobby Portis played in FOUR games.

…and where he loses me is saying that the Bulls could have lost by 80. Well, they could have lost by 30 if the starters had a chance to make things right after the poor performance in the first half.

I guess I come out of this 65% agreeing with Patrick and 35% saying you lost me. Again, I’m shocked no mention of management who is responsible for putting together this roster and pushing Boylen to become more like a Boyliac. Accountability? It starts up top.

Jalen Rose, ESPN’s Jalen & Jacoby

I agree with Jalen Rose, it’s not a great look for some Bulls players who reported Jim Boylen to the NBAPA. That’s what its there for though, a resource for players. Rose goes more towards a pro-coach narrative though. Like most of these takes, he cites the 56-point loss being the reason the players had zero leverage. What’s funny is Jalen Rose uses a story about how his high school team was beaten badly and that proceeded to a practice immediately after.

That’s right, high school. This is the NBA. Players were mad, not about having to practice, but being treated like high school athletes rather than professionals.

It would have been nice to hear what his reaction would be if he was pulled in a game shortly after the second half and then embarrassed to the media immediately following.

No mention of the front office here either.

Kevin McHale, Chris Weber, Isiah Thomas, NBA TV

Kevin McHale managed to call the Bulls players “entitled, selfish brats” because players aren’t having fun so that’s why they didn’t want to show up to practice. He says the NBA is about competition but failed to mention the Bulls pulling their starters three minutes into the second half?

Interesting, I didn’t know games get more competitive when you bring the 15th man off your bench to play 19 minutes.

He also starts talking about players group chat, where he says the entire team wanted to boycott practice. Well, when reporters asked Boylen he, in fact, was very strong in making it known it was only two or three guys. Look, I get that the leaders of the team should be saying we need to be in the gym the next morning practicing but why would they do that when not even given a chance to ‘right the ship’ on Saturday?

Isiah Thomas starts talking about the Bulls not being in shape and I didn’t bother to any more attention to it. Boylen made that statement when he was hired, which is so clearly not true, and now most are using as part of the reason why the Bulls are not staying in games. Does everyone seem to forget the injuries?

Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, and Chris Webber all played in an era of basketball that no longer exists. Gritting it out by running sprints and military pushups doesn’t help you win basketball games.

Chris Broussard & Rob Parker, FOX Sports Radio

This conversation is pretty long but both Rob Parker and Chris Broussard make valid points. Broussard is on the side of NBA players today are soft and not use to being coached the way Boylen wants to. Parker, on the other hand, believes there is a certain way to go about coaching in the modern era without embarrassing your players.

While I fall more on Parker’s side than I do with Broussard, he does mention an interesting point:

“The players do have the power. If they don’t buy it, if they had not shown up to practice, basically doing a mutiny… [Boylen] would have to eventually get fired. A coach, you can come in and be hard nosed or whatever but if the players don’t recieve it, you’re going to get fired.”

That’s the thing. The players hold all the power. Broussard is right too, none of the players on the Bulls right now have the accomplishments to back up boycotting practice. Parker responds by saying just because the coach makes you practice harder, run sprints, etc. isn’t going to make you win any more games. They didn’t look at it as being too difficult, rather a punishment similar to your history teacher in the 11th grade putting you in detention.

They go on to talk about how this type of behavior starts in AAU basketball. What Broussard fails to mention is the injuries to Markkanen, Dunn, Portis, and Valentine that had them sidelined. Also failed to mention starters being pulled with 9:02 left in the third quarter of Saturday’s game.

Broussard’s main argument is that the Bulls are 6-22, he mentions it about a dozen times. He also said Boylen ‘just joined the team’ when pressed by Parker about “coaching better”. Boylen has been in the building and on the bench for three years.

Rob Parker wins.

Mike Golic, ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo”

I’m not sure why I torture myself watching an old-school football guy try and relate to a mostly millennial driven league like the NBA. Golic wasn’t alone in leaving out the fact that Boylen yanked his starters just minutes into the second half, only down 23. The Bulls record is bad, yes, but why did you fail to mention two starters and two rotation players only played a combined five games this season?

To be fair, Mike Golic Jr. at least had a clue. When is it time to make the change in the one area they haven’t for the last 20 years? As for Golic, maybe do a bit more research than a simple glance at the NBA standings next time.

Jim Rome, CBS Sports Radio

I almost forgot about Jim Rome with his 1.35 million Twitter followers. He spent a few minutes talking about the Bulls this week on his CBS Sports Radio Show ‘Jim Rome’s Daily Jungle’. Moreso, it was a rundown of the events that happened than anything else. He spent some time poking fun at Jim Boylen’s post-game comments (deserved) and mocked his comments about working under Gregg Popovich.

“Always one thing for a knucklehead like me to point out that Jim Boylen is not Gregg Popovich but quite another for one of his own players to say the exact same thing. A Chicago Bull hasn’t dunked on anybody that hard since Scott Pippen threw down on Pat Ewing then stepped over him”

Scott Pippen instead of Scottie Pippen? Weird flex but OK. He finishes his rant with the nugget about Kings players mocking the Bulls after their 19-point win Monday night.

“Sacramento Kings are talking junk about your 2.5-hour practices. Holy crap. Now you have reached a stage where the opposing team is openly mocking you. If beating the Thunder gets you cereal and Family Feud reruns, what does getting booed off the court against the Kings get you? Either way, Bulls are my new favorite team.”

Rome ends by calling the Bears badass but the Bulls plain ass.

Jordan Maly is the host of Locked On Bulls, he's a native of Naperville, IL and graduated from Indiana University - Bloomington. Jordan has spent time covering the Indiana Pacers, Indiana Hoosiers basketball and football, and the Big Ten Conference as a credentialed writer. Jordan has been published in Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, SB Nation, FanSided, and Yahoo Sports.

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