CHICAGO – The Bulls insist they remain committed to keeping coach Jim Boylen beyond this season and that he is delivering the way they anticipated despite their poor record.
Executive vice president John Paxson said the Bulls “absolutely” plan to retain him. He said Boylen is “doing the right things” and is “promoting the right message to our players.”
The front office also took the blame Thursday for signing Jabari Parker last summer in a failed experiment. He was traded along with Bobby Portis and a protected 2023 second-round draft pick to Washington for Otto Porter Jr. on Wednesday.
“We thought at the time it was worth the roll of the dice given where we were at,” Paxson said. “It didn’t work out for either party.”
The Bulls have lost 16 of 18 games and own one of the worst records in the NBA at 12-42.
There have been few signs of progress in a season where they hoped to show some. They were hit hard by injuries and have been stumbling all season.
That might put them in better position to win the lottery and draft Zion Williamson. But it wasn’t the way they drew things up.
The Bulls were 5-19 when they fired former coach Fred Hoiberg on Dec. 3. They have gone 7-23 under Boylen.
The Bulls got blown out by a franchise-record 56 points by Boston in Boylen’s third game. The starters got benched for about the final 20 minutes that night, and some players raised the possibility of boycotting practice the next morning. There was a players-only meeting instead, and the team met with coaches and management.
“That was a bad way to start, but when you’re in it every day, you see his passion, commitment and the care he has for his players and this organization,” Paxson said.
The Bulls could be paying three coaches if they decided to let Boylen go. But Paxson said money has “nothing” to do with the decision to keep him.
As for the trade, the Bulls see it as a correction-of-sorts for the failed Parker signing as well as a logical move given where there are in their rebuild.
Parker simply did not fit in Hoiberg’s pace-and-space offense and didn’t really mesh with the defensive-oriented Boylen. The Bulls viewed it as a low-risk move when they signed him to a $40 million, two-year deal because of his age (23) and the fact that the second year was not guaranteed.
“What we saw in Jabari was a guy who’s 23 years old and had talent,” general manager Gar Forman said.
They see a fit in the 25-year-old Porter, a career 40-percent 3-point shooter and a versatile defender at small forward.
Trading Portis made sense to them because he is set to become a restricted free agent and they’re locked into Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. at power forward and center. The two sides were unable to agree to a contract extension in the offseason.
And as much as the Bulls liked Portis, they viewed Porter as a wiser investment even with two years left on a four-year, $106.5 million contract.
“Is he making a lot of money? Of course he is,” Paxson said. “And it does take away some of that cap space. But we also felt that we tried to re-sign Bobby this past offseason.”
One more move the Bulls could make is a buyout with Robin Lopez that would free the veteran center to sign with a contender. Paxson said there are no plans at the moment.
“My feeling right now – it can change – is Robin will be with us,” Paxson said. “Our players love him. He’s a great teammate. He’s a good guy. We don’t feel it’s an absolute given that we have to just buy a guy out to help another team.”