Bulls coach Jim Boylen knows things have to be better next season.
In fact, Boylen challenged his players with that very topic this week. He let them know the Bulls’ home record was disastrous, especially for a fan base that has been relatively patient through the rebuild to this point.
‘‘I feel for the fans,’’ Boylen said before the Bulls completed a 9-32 home season with a 96-86 loss Thursday to the Knicks. ‘‘I’m disappointed for the fans that we didn’t play better at home, and we’ve got to fix that.
‘‘You want to win your home games and be .500 on the road. That’s kind of the formula in the NBA for a successful season. We need to win more home games. If we would win 25 home games next year, that’s 16 more wins. We’d be at 38-42, which is what I think Miami is right now, trying to get [into the playoffs].
‘‘Those are just words. We’ve gotta put the effort, the toughness, the work, the grit into that next year. All I can tell you is we’re going to work at that and try to get the right guys who can execute.’’
Basically, it will be a team that will look much different from the one the Bulls played against the Knicks in their home finale.
Again, because of all the Bulls’ injuries, Boylen started Robin Lopez, Wayne Selden, Shaquille Harrison, Ryan Arcidiacono and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. The result was the Bulls’ seventh loss in their last eight games. It also meant their last home victory came March 20.
‘‘I think we’ve beat ourselves a lot,’’ Boylen said of the home-court problems. ‘‘I think that’s a theme I’ve used with our guys all year. We’ve turned the ball over. We’ve poorly communicated. We’ve missed open shots. We’ve gotten to the rim and not made layups.
‘‘I have a hard time saying other teams are better than us, and maybe that’s a foolish way to be. But we have to play more efficiently than our opponent and do the basics better for more of the 48 [minutes]. If we do that, I think we can beat anybody.’’
Boylen and the front office are assuming the rebuild is progressing in a positive direction. They are assuming the core will be back healthier and more mature next season. They are assuming the draft in June will give them another talented weapon. They are assuming the core will mesh at full strength.
A leap of faith? Definitely. But it’s one they have to take at this point.
‘‘I honestly do,’’ point guard Kris Dunn said when he asked if he thought the rebuild was going in the right direction. ‘‘You’ve got the pieces. It’s about whether you have the chemistry. . . . It’s about coming together as a team.’’
While Lopez acknowledged the NBA game has changed in the last decade, especially for big men, he said he’s not concerned about being overlooked in free agency because he has an old-school game.
‘‘There’s always going to be a market for — I guess here I go, patting myself on the back — smart, intelligent, tall big guys,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘If you know your way around the basketball court, if you know what you’re supposed to be doing out there to help yourself and help out other guys, height’s something that you obviously say you can’t teach. That’s something that’s tough to go against.’’