Bulls coach Jim Boylen admits that first day of camp was emotional

The longtime NBA assistant has waited years to have his own team in training camp, and that first step came Tuesday for Boylen.

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There was one dark cloud over Jim Boylen’s first day of training camp as a head coach: a hyperextended right elbow for Bulls rookie big man Daniel Gafford, who was still awaiting test results Tuesday night.

“Yeah, I worry about the elbow,” Boylen said. “When you hyperextend an elbow, which is what Lauri [Markkanen] did last year, and if you’ve ever done that, that’s a really weird kind of thing. You can roll an ankle, but an elbow — if it’s at the point where it hurts — it probably means you popped it pretty good.

“Daniel plays so hard. Such a good kid.”

It was about the only bump in Boylen’s ride Tuesday, as the long-time career assistant started his first full training camp in the head coaching chair.

“It’s very emotional for me,’’ Boylen said. “It’s very humbling to be there and to be in this position. It’s still sinking in in a way, although I’ve been thinking about this team all summer. I’ve said this before: We’ve just got to get this right. We’ve got to do it right. That’s my goal.

“It’s not about me being the head coach. We’ve got to get it right for the city, we’ve got to get it right for the Reinsdorfs, we’ve got to get it right for [vice president of basketball operations] John Paxson. We’ve got to get it right, man.”

Boylen has been outspoken about the fixes he wants to make in this camp.

“We want to play faster, so we’ve got to work at that,” he said. “You are what you emphasize. We need to be better defensively. We need to work at that. We need to communicate better, so we need to have drills that work at that. You think about those all summer.

“I’ve got notes from when I was on the plane going to visit [Tomas] Satoransky. I’ve got notes from the Summer League, sitting in the stands. You just kind of put it together. It’s pretty cool to have a group of guys who care and want to work. That makes it really fun.”

Difference of opinion

Privately, one of the complaints that former coach Fred Hoiberg had about the Bulls’ front office was not getting the type of players he needed for his system. It seems different with Boylen, but Paxson doesn’t see the situation that way.

“In the past, we took a couple of gambles, is the way I’d call it based on short-term contracts,” Paxson said. “That’s really what it was. This year, we had a little more room to look at longer term. That’s all it is. Philosophies, we’ve always respected team-oriented, tough-minded guys. I don’t see that as a change. We took our circumstance and rolled the dice a little bit.”


To make the voluntary workouts in September more fun for the players, Boylen held a series of one-on-one tournaments with monetary prizes.

“That’s another way that we competed,” veteran forward Otto Porter said. “We got to compete against each other, see who’s the best every week. We got money for it. I think that’s something that everybody wanted. But also a time to build that team bonding and team chemistry.”

Was there a clear-cut winner? Porter wasn’t sharing.

“I think Zach [LaVine] had the most games, but it was like a tournament, so four different players won,” Porter said.

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