Coach Jim Boylen has run his team through back-to-back 2½-hour practices and a 90-minute shootaround, has implemented ‘‘suicides’’ in practice because of what he deemed “poor conditioning,’’ then twice during the Bulls’ franchise-worst 56-point blowout loss to the Celtics on Saturday, he subbed out his entire starting unit because of “embarrassing’’ play.
All of this in just his first six days on the job.
It will either turn out to be the most unorthodox stroke of genius by a Bulls coach in years or simply lead to a mass mutiny, but Boylen, without question, is doing it his way, and he made that clear after the 133-77 loss at the United Center.
“I think your play is embarrassing,’’ Boylen said when asked about the fine line between benching his starters to send a message and just embarrassing professional players. “Me subbing them is saving them. Maybe we saved them. The pro-player thing, this is basketball. This is about honoring the game and doing the right things. I worked for Gregg Popovich, he subbed five guys a ton of times. No one says a word to him about it.
“Embarrassment is not giving the effort in that Bulls uniform. . . . We’ve got a long way to go.’’
Boylen — 1-2 since taking over for Fred Hoiberg on Monday — said the second benching was “premeditated’’ so that he could have his team ready for a Sunday practice.
“I play them more, we lose [Saturday], and then we can’t practice [Sunday],’’ Boylen said. “We double lose, and we don’t have time to do that.’’
No one will argue that the start against the Celtics (15-10) was beyond awful. Falling behind 17-0 off the tip is never a good way to show management that you’ve recaptured the “spirit and energy.’’
Those were the two buzzwords used in the Hoiberg firing, with the organization seeing a lack of it too often this season.
Trailing 64-43 at the half, the starters were back in there to try to make things right, and after getting outscored only 5-3 to start the third, Boylen pulled them again. That one would seemingly be a bit more difficult to explain.
Not for Boylen.
“It is what it is,’’ Zach LaVine said. “We’ve got to do what he says.’’
LaVine was then asked about the fine line between embarrassing them and teaching them, and he seemed to pick a side.
“We put a lot of hard work into this,’’ LaVine said. “I get up and compete every day. Regardless of what the score is, I want to get out there and compete, but obviously we didn’t get a chance to do that, and we saw what happened.
“I felt embarrassed. Wish I was out there competing. . . . It sucks. Sometimes you feel like you didn’t do anything wrong. We got blitzed to come out. Obviously, he didn’t like that. That happens in the NBA sometimes. We responded in the second quarter. . . . I don’t know. I do not know.’’
It wasn’t all bad for Boylen and the Bulls.
While the organization continued being extra-cautious with Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee), there is growing momentum that both could return to the rotation Monday.
At least Portis is feeling that way.
“I’ve felt to this point, I feel I did everything,’’ Portis said. “I checked every box. Being injured for the first time is hard for me. I want to play Monday. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Hopefully, I can get out there and play.’’