CHICAGO – Despite all that has gone wrong over the past few months, from bad performances to injuries, Jim Boylen’s remained relatively positive in his postgame comments to the media.
Of course, there are moments where he’s not happy, as one might expect. But something like Wednesday night was a little different.
Following a 115-108 loss to the Timberwolves, a team with a worse record than the Bulls, Boylen said the team “wasn’t tough enough” over the course of the defeat.
“I challenged our group; we’ve got to be tougher, we’ve got to be more competitive in those moments where there are ’50-50′ balls in the air, we’ve got to do a better job,” said Boylen to reporters at the Target Center.
It’s a rare departure from his mostly supportive nature that he’s shown the past year-and-a-half, and even during this disappointing, injury-riddled 2019-2020 season where the Bulls sit at 21-41.
Yet it’s a message that Boylen doesn’t regret giving as his team takes the floor Friday night against the Pacers at the United Center. As players like Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., and Wendell Carter Jr. have returned to the lineup, the coach is stressing that his team needs the proper mindset looking ahead to the final 20 games.
Each of the three mentioned above continues to work their way back to normal minutes, though guard Zach LaVine will miss his third-straight game with a strained quad.
“You have to pick your moments, I think,” said Boylen when asked about if speaking out on the team was something that was building up for a bit. “We had a team that was hurt and working its way back. We have a team getting back to full strength, we’ll know about Zach tomorrow. You have to re-establish some of the pillars of your system. We’ve got new guys playing, we’ve got guys that have missed 50 games, guys that have missed six weeks, eight weeks.
“Human nature is ‘Where am I at? How can I get involved? What can I do?’ What I want them to do is to ‘pay into the pot’ with their effort and their emotion and play their minutes as hard as they can, and the rest of it takes care of itself.”
Coby White was asked about that challenge from Boylen on Wednesday, which came after he enjoyed another strong night with 26 points.
“We’re all grown men, we’re not kids. He says we need to play tougher, we need to play tougher, at the end of the day,” said White of Boylen’s comments. “We’ve got to board and we’ve got to grind, and that’s all there is to it.”
At least the coach hopes that’s the case moving forward.