Bulls coach Jim Boylen has every right to get defensive
The entire offseason and into the preseason, Boylen has been preaching defense. So to come up with the lack of effort his players showed in the loss to Charlotte obviously falls under the category of disappointing.
MEMPHIS — If Wednesday night in Charlotte was the welcome-to-the-regular-season punch in the face, Thursday was the clean-up.
An ice pack here, a few stitches there, and the hope that pride travels on the road.
That’s what the focus for the Bulls was during their off-day practice. Some much-needed good old-fashioned defensive pride kicking in.
After all, that’s what was stressed this preseason — correcting a defense that last year far too often betrayed the rebuild at the worst times.
Maybe that’s why they held the practice at Christian Brothers University. A little divine intervention couldn’t hurt at this point.
“I think there are a lot of things we can fix,’’ forward Lauri Markkanen said after the practice, when talking defense. “Not necessarily what [Charlotte] did, but what I said [Wednesday] night. It was communicating and easy mistakes, two on the ball, so that one pass and there’s an open three in transition. It’s not acceptable.
“There were a lot of things that were on us, and like I said the good thing is they are fixable.’’
Which is what coach Jim Boylen was working on yet again.
“I mean we work on [defense] every day, so [the loss in Charlotte] wasn’t what we definitely can do,’’ Markkanen said.
What they did do was not pretty.
Way too many three-pointers allowed, as the Hornets shot 23-for-44 (52.3 percent) from long range, and far too often did so uncontested. Yes, Charlotte’s game plan was solid, as they pushed the ball, attacked the middle in transition, and then kicked it to an open shooter, and that was the major question Boylen was dealing with: Why so many open shooters off of just one pass?
The answer he found on film couldn’t have made him thrilled, especially because it came down to will and effort on the defensive end.
“Yes sir, I think that’s a big part of it,’’ Boylen said. “Again, I go back to no middle close-out, that’s a basic. Transition defense, that’s a basic that you have to do for the more of the 48 than your opponent or you’re going to struggle, and we didn’t do it more than our opponent.
“We’ll learn from that, we’ll grow from that. This is the part of the job that I really love. That moment where we’re hitting a little adversity, we’re not playing as well as we’d hope, and we’re going to clean it up and work on it. It’s the favorite part of the job.’’
That’s also why Boylen wasn’t going to panic or make a sudden lineup adjustment, either. It’s all fixable in his eyes, and as long as the players buy in the same way they’ve been buying in during practice, it will be fixed.
“We feel we’ve been pretty good at [close-out defense in practice], and in the preseason we really were,’’ Boylen said. “[Wednesday] we had some slippage. All we can do is work on it, talk about it.’’
And Boylen will keep talking about it, because he does want his team to have a defensive identity and gain that reputation as a squad that will make the opposition work on the offensive end.
“Of course it’s disappointing,’’ Boylen said. “To me it’s part of the process. We didn’t have slippage in our corner-crash offensive rebounding scheme, we didn’t have slippage in not turning the ball over. We had some slippage in areas that we would like not to have it, and again, let’s fix it, let’s move on, and let’s grow together.’’