According to coach Jim Boylen, there’s still some urgency in these last 13 games.
He has been reiterating that to his players, especially his bench personnel, reminding them that little is promised for next season.
“Huge, huge, and I tell them that, and I say that every day,’’ Boylen said of the significance of these remaining games for his reserves. “Nothing is more important than the next game, the next possession, the next practice. I tell them my goal for them is to play the next 10 years. I hope the 10 years are with us, with the Bulls, a great franchise, a great city, but I want them to play 10 years for themselves and their family. That starts today; it starts with the next possession. I believe that; I’ve seen it happen.
“You don’t know who’s watching. You’re always being evaluated at this level by somebody. There will be five to seven scouts here [Tuesday], whether they’re advance guys or pro-personnel guys, and I think part of our job, part of my job, is to raise them up, help them get an opportunity and tell them the truth. I try to do that.’’
And the truth is the Bulls’ bench has been mediocre after all the injuries changed roles and forced G League talent — in some instances — to the NBA level.
But even more important for the bench players is the cruel numbers game.
As it stands now, the Bulls have nine players with guaranteed contracts next season, plus factor in at least one draft pick — and likely two — on the roster in June. They’re also expected to do some free-agent shopping, so throw in a possible veteran in July.
That means possibly 12 spots already are spoken for, so Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaquille Harrison, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and Wayne Selden Jr. are hoping they’ve made enough of an impact to warrant a spot somewhere next season.
That’s why Boylen has been trying to beat that message home.
“Absolutely, this stretch is important,’’ Harrison said. “I mean, even as a basketball player, anytime you step on the court, you should be a competitor, should want to win, should want to get better. So I don’t care if it’s the first game of the season or the last game of the season, you should have that same intensity, same mindset.
“But for us bench guys, it’s an opportunity that a lot of people in this world don’t get, so take advantage of it.’’
Boylen, an assistant coach for Houston in 1995, remembers the infamous altercation between former Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell and a fan in Portland.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook’s incident with a Utah fan didn’t escalate into a physical altercation Monday night, but it still resonated with Boylen, especially because of player-safety issues.
“Well, [the players] are our greatest asset, so I’m sure they’ll figure it out,’’ Boylen said. “Yeah, we have to protect the guys, man. It’s their league, and they’re our biggest asset.
“From what I know about Westbrook, he’s a worker, cares about the game. He was an MVP, heard he’s got a great heart. I’ve been in those situations. I was back in the day with Vernon Maxwell, had an altercation with a fan in Portland, and it’s not good stuff.’’