Coach Jim Boylen thinks Bulls are starting to find their identity

The Bulls had a rough start to the season, despite an easy start to their schedule. But 30 games in, Boylen believes they finally are starting to establish their identity.

SHARE Coach Jim Boylen thinks Bulls are starting to find their identity
Chicago Bulls v Indiana Pacers

The Bulls have a 5-5 record in December with the chance to snag two more wins over the next few days.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

At the start of the season, coach Jim Boylen set clear expectations. He wanted the Bulls to play tough, fast — to find ways to close out games.

To help make that possible, he incorporated an up-tempo offense and put an emphasis on shooting from the three-point line.

It hasn’t worked as well as he might’ve hoped. But 30 games in, Boylen nonetheless believes the Bulls (11-19) are finally starting to establish an identity.

“We have played some good basketball, but we weren’t consistent enough,” Boylen said by phone Friday. “I still think we have to grow in the consistency part, but our habits are better, our defensive has improved, we’ve had higher-assist games in the last month, when the ball’s popping. I think our feel for each other has improved. [Guard] Kris Dunn in the starting lineup has been a huge addition for us.

“Sometimes when you don’t win, your improvement can be lost. I think we’re improving. We still have things we have to do better, but I do think this team is growing.”

Consistency has been a glaring problem for the Bulls — just look at their last three games. Last Saturday at home, they overcame a 15-point deficit to upset an undermanned Clippers team. They followed that by squandering a 26-point second-half lead in a loss to the Thunder on Monday in Oklahoma City. Then they found a way to dig themselves out of an 18-point hole in the fourth quarter to pull off an unlikely overtime victory against the Wizards on Wednesday in Washington.

Not knowing which Bulls team is going to show up on any given night can be frustrating. But Boylen sees a team that’s learning and adapting.

“[In] two of the last three games, we’ve been down in the last five minutes and we’ve been able to figure out how to get the score tied and how to win the game — so that’s growth for us,” he said. “That says to me that we’re starting to understand late-game situations and execution.”

A lot of the Bulls’ success comes down to forward Lauri Markkanen and guard Zach LaVine — the pillars around which this rebuild has been constructed. If they can’t find a way to feed off one another, the rebuild will have been a waste of time.

LaVine, who’s averaging 23.2 points this season, has had many high-scoring nights. Markkanen has not. But after starting this season in a slump, he’s been playing better as of late. After scoring 20 or more points just twice in his first 20 games, he has done so in five of the last 10 games and is now averaging 17.9 points.

“He’s been more aggressive,” Boylen said. “He’s finding out where his shots are coming from. I think maybe he’s getting more of his open looks, which always helps.”

Is now the time that Markkanen and LaVine finally start playing well together on a regular basis?

Boylen believes so.

“They’re starting to have that chemistry and that feel that we’ve envisioned,” he said. “I’m glad that they’re both focusing on improving at the defensive end so they can help win there. And at the offensive end, they seem to be understanding how to play with each other better — and just in general play better.”

The Latest
“There’s no question the mutual aid we received is what carried the day for us to be successful as we could be,” Highland Park police Chief Lou Jogmen says.
Feckless Yankees are going to keep emigrating to Florida. Ever-more powerful storms are also a certainty. There are ways to protect them from themselves.
Illinois hasn’t appeared in the rankings since since 2011, the longest drought in college football.
280-character previews of every high school basketball team in the state that submits information.
The six-story mural at 844 W. Montrose Ave. aims to show ‘an overlap between nature and the urban environment . . . these two things that I feel like I’m kind of always wrestling with.’