CLEVELAND — Coach Jim Boylen’s long hesitation said it all.
Forget about the fact that multiple sources have recently told the Sun-Times just how much of a disconnect there is between Boylen and disgruntled forward Jabari Parker.
“From my seat, he needs to lock into practicing hard, playing hard and honoring the values of the team, which I’ve set forth for the team,’’ Boylen said Sunday, when asked if he felt Parker was connected to the team these days.
It was a response that came after some thought, and some serious pause.
“Every day is an opportunity to do that,’’ Boylen said. “Every day, that’s a conscious decision to support what the team is doing — every day by everybody. . . . We got a lot of guys doing that right now.’’
Well, maybe except one, which was evident in the 112-92 victory against the Cavaliers, which just happened to be the third win for the Bulls (9-25) in the last five games.
Sources have indicated that Parker has all but checked out, hopeful that a trade is imminent.
While the Bulls already have discussed moving Parker and his two-year, $40-million contract — there is a team-option on year two — there are few teams showing interest.
The Bulls are not operating from a position of strength, either, especially considering Parker’s situation.
“What I do is give all our guys my expectations,’’ Boylen said about Parker’s standing on the team. “How I feel they can help the team, what I think they need to do better. What they do well. And [Parker] knows what my expectations are, and he needs to be available when called upon.
“Everybody has choices and they can make those choices if they want, but what we hope is that he improves, that he works, that he grows, and that he locks in to maybe the things he can do better and things that help the team.’’
There’s actions behind Boylen’s words.
Case in point was Sunday, as Parker was available after missing the last two games with a stomach virus, but instead remained on the bench the entire game, behind players such as rookie Chandler Hutchison and Antonio Blakeney. He didn’t see the floor even in mop-up time.
And like the Bucks, the Bulls seem to be better without Parker, especially with Lauri Markkanen healthy again.
For the first time in his career, Markkanen had back-to-back 30-point games, putting up 32 in the win over the Magic on Friday and 31 against the Cavs.
“We just tried to stick together,’’ Markkanen said. “Getting my conditioning back, I’m not getting tired as quickly, and that way I have more fire in my legs when I shoot the ball. It just helps on everything, just to get that rhythm back.’’
No one appreciates that more than Boylen.
“He’s learned something in the last 10 days in that he controls more of it than we do,’’ Boylen said of Markkanen. “He controls more of the force he plays with, and energy, and toughness, and grit than we do. With all the talent he has, he has to do that, and he’s done it.’’
It’s a lesson Parker has not learned.