A week ago, after a 5-19 start that was tough to watch, but not all that surprising given the level of talent on the roster and the injuries they've dealt with, the Chicago Bulls . Things haven't gotten any better under new coach Jim Boylen, and they've certainly gotten a lot weirder.
Here's a timeline of Boylen's bizarre first week in charge.
Dec. 4: Desperate for more enthusiasm
Early in his first game in charge against the Pacers, Boylen was already acting like he was coaching a youth team, marching up and down the sidelines asking for more enthusiasm.
Jim Boylen got up clapping and walked down the bench trying to get players to clap when Zach LaVine scored.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 5, 2018
Dec. 5: Two-hour practice the day after a loss
There are not a lot of formal practices going on during the NBA season. Shootarounds, yes, but real practices are few and far between due to the vigorous travel and game schedule. So it was a bit of a shock to hear the Bulls recently had multiple two-hour practices complete with players running conditioning drills like it was the preseason. Oh, and one of them happened the day after a loss to the Pacers.
This was just two days into Boylen's tenure. Via NBC Sports Chicago:
Head coach Jim Boylen ran a second straight two-plus hour practice on Wednesday - including a film session before - that he said included suicide sprints and other conditioning drills the day after the Bulls' 96-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
"We're old-school, we get on the line. Then we have certain drills we do within the line for that. But there's no short-cut to conditioning. There's no short cut to getting in shape," he said. "People think there is I think sometimes, or you can do this or you can do that. The only way you get in shape in this game is to get on the floor and do it. That's what we're going to do. We're going to do it every day."
Dec. 6: Another marathon practice and film session
Not content with pushing his team hard the day after a game, Boylen kept his foot on the gas with another long practice and film session on Thursday. On the Bulls' two off days between games on Tuesday and Friday night, Boylen ran intense practices both days. Via NBC Sports Chicago:
The marathon practices continue under new coach Jim Boylen's watch. And "marathon" doesn't just describe the lengthy sessions spent in the film room and on the court at the Advocate Center, but the literal sense as well.
"We're doing a lot of running," said Ryan Arcidiacono after Thursday's practice. "We've really gotten after each other. We've really played hard together, worked on the little things. We're doing a lot of running, though. We're getting up and down the floor.
"I can't emphasize enough. We're doing a lot of running. I think we'll be getting in better shape."
Dec. 7: Bulls... beat the Thunder? Boylen celebrates with cereal and Family Feud
In Boylen's second game in charge, the Bulls scored a shocking upset win over the red-hot Thunder thanks to a last-second bucket from Lauri Markkanen.
Boylen continued his interesting week by celebrating with a bowl of cereal and some episodes of Family Feud.
Jim Boylen had a bowl of cereal with kids and watched Family Feud to celebrate his first win late last night.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 8, 2018
Dec. 8: Bulls lose by 56, Boylen uses five-man substitution twice
In an extremely clear sign that Friday's win over the Thunder was a one-off thing and not the sign of a coming turnaround, the Bulls were embarrassed by the Celtics by 56 points on Saturday night. It was the worst loss in franchise history.
It should be pointed out that the Bulls had absolutely nothing on the second night of a back-to-back following a brutal week of practices. They probably still would have lost to the Celtics, who are a far better team, but it's hard to imagine that Boylen using their two off days in the middle of the week to essentially hold a mini training camp didn't have an impact on this game.
More worrying, though, is that Boylen may have lost a lot of trust by using a five-man substitution twice, once again treating his starters like they were the first unit on a middle school team with too many players.
Let's check in on how Zach LaVine felt about the decision:
Reporter: "You don't see 5-man substitutions happen a lot in the league, so---"— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 9, 2018
Zach LaVine, interrupting: "No, you don't."
Awesome! This is going great.
After the game, Boylen gave the expected quotes about not seeing enough effort from the starters, which is why he subbed them out. But then he noted that he wanted to save them for, wait for it, another practice on Sunday.
Jim Boylen didn't play his starters in the final 21 minutes because he believed that practice tomorrow would be more beneficial than having them play in the second half of a game they weren't going to win tonight.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 9, 2018
Dec. 9: Bulls players decide not to practice
After showing up his starters twice against the Celtics, saying he would rather save his starters for a more productive practice on Sunday, the Bulls didn't end up practicing prior to Monday night's matchup with the Sacramento Kings (8 p.m. ET -- Watch on FuboTV with NBA League Pass extension).
As reported last night, players understood Boylen's first 5-man substitution. Bulls came out flat/new coach sending message/etc. It's the second one that caught some players off guard. Celtics began 2nd half on mere 5-3 run and Boylen pulled all 5 starters just 2:58 into half.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 9, 2018
Remember, Boylen said he didn't go back to starters last night because he deemed blowout not winnable and today's practice would be of more benefit. Team has been meeting for close to 2 hours and hasn't taken floor.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 9, 2018
As it turns out, it was the players who decided not to practice, telling Boylen they wanted to hold a team meeting instead. But because nothing with the Bulls can ever be normal, Boylen disputed that, saying it was actually him who decided not to practice -- an idea that seems unlikely given what he did earlier in the week.
Boylen said that he benched the starters for final 21 min b/c they’d be better served having a hard practice than exerting effort in a losing battle. Carter said today “we came to them as men and talked to them about how we felt” and pushed to hold meeting instead of practice.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) December 9, 2018
Jim Boylen disputes that players called for meetings today and said it was his decision to have meetings instead of on the court practice. Players conveyed that they called the meetings.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) December 9, 2018
In fact, the players were on the verge of simply not showing up on Sunday, but ultimately decided to come to the facility and hold team meetings instead of practice.
Per multiple sources, players started a group text exchange debating whether to show up at practice facility today. They ultimately decided to show up and told coaching staff they wanted players only meeting, which was followed by the meeting with coaches.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 9, 2018
At one point, once the coaches joined the meeting, Boylen revealed that he wasn't actually going to make them practice. Whether he was going to do that all along, or only said that as a response to the players' solidarity on Sunday is unclear. But if it was his plan the entire time, it seems bizarre not to tell the players last night, which would have avoided this entire fiasco. Just truly bizarre why he thought that withholding information from his players would lead to more trust between them.
At one point in coach/player meeting, per sources, Boylen had someone reveal that he merely planned to hold film session and let players get shots up today instead of hard practice. Did that to show players how they need to learn to trust him.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 9, 2018
OK, so let's pull this all together for a quick recap. In just one week under Boylen, the Bulls recorded their worst loss in franchise history, and the players got so fed up with their new coach's hard-ass tactics that they refused to practice.
That's, um, not great!
Dec. 10: Reports break that Bulls players contacted Players Association
If it wasn't clear that the Bulls are fed up with Boylen's coaching tactics, it certainly is now. Accoriding to a report from Vincent Goodwill, players contacted the Players Association on Sunday, voicing their concerns over Boylen's coaching style.
Chicago Bulls players contacted the National Basketball Players Association on Sunday because of what they felt were extreme tactics by new head coach Jim Boylen, league sources told Yahoo Sports, the culmination of a growing divide between the coach and his players.
It's not known exactly what the players listed as their complaints, but it seems likely it's over Boylen's practice plans. In between a game on Tuesday night and a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, Boylen ran marathon practices on both Wednesday and Thursday which included conditioning drills usually seen in training camp.
With multiple Bulls players already dealing with injuries, and the long season already taking its toll, it's easy to see how the players would not only be annoyed by the extra long practices, but potentially feel they were unsafe.