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Financial concerns likely will keep Jim Boylen as Bulls’ coach

The mood was very different months ago, when the new front office seemed poised to make a coaching change in the wake of negative feedback from players. But with real concerns about financial losses next season, there is growing sentiment that Boylen will be back.

Financial considerations might save Jim Boylen’s job with the Bulls.
Financial considerations might save Jim Boylen’s job with the Bulls.
AP

For three consecutive weeks, the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, has held strong.

Of the 343 players tested in the latest round made public, there were zero positive tests for the coronavirus that shut down the league — and the rest of sports world — in March.

That’s a victory for the 22 teams in the bubble.

The eight teams out? Not so much.

Multiple reports say that the idea of a ‘‘Chicago 8’’ bubble has all but popped and that the hope of the NBA granting the eight teams even a minicamp/scrimmage opportunity in September is on life support.

That’s not the kind of news Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was hoping to hear. A second bubble would have allowed Karnisovas a much-needed opportunity to evaluate Bulls coach Jim Boylen directly in games, game preparation, practices and film sessions.

But the Sun-Times learned this week that even if Karnisovas didn’t like what he would have seen from Boylen, he likely would have been handcuffed from making a change.

According to several sources, there is growing thought that financial concerns the Reinsdorfs have about the 2020-21 season will keep Boylen and most of his staff on the Bulls’ bench.

It seems the ‘‘players first’’ motto Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley were touting several months ago will be pushed aside by money. That would be a small slap to several Bulls players and a large slap to a vocal Bulls fan base.

Playing the strapped-for-cash card when the franchise is valued at $3.2 billion is a hard pill to swallow.

Karnisovas seemed poised to move on from Boylen and several members of his staff after getting some negative feedback from key Bulls players in the first month after taking the job to run the Bulls’ basketball operations.

He and Eversley were even in the process of using back channels to reach out to 76ers assistant Ime Udoka and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin as possible replacements, multiple NBA scouts said.

So what changed?

The fact chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told USA Today last month that his financial losses with the Bulls and White Sox were somewhere in the ‘‘nine figures’’ obviously painted an ugly picture.

Then add in the uncertainty about the 2020-21 NBA season, and Boylen’s .317 winning percentage suddenly doesn’t look so bad to the Reinsdorfs.

Does the situation remain fluid? Absolutely, especially with the NBA still weighing different scenarios for next season. Three of them involve starting the season in December and one involves starting it in March — provided the NBA thinks it can get fans in arenas by then and not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

The big potential winners in this — besides Boylen, of course — are the Reinsdorfs, who can continue paying Boylen a $1.6 million salary, one of the lowest in the league for a head coach.

As far as upsetting the fan base even more? Jerry Reinsdorf never has cared what fans say on talk radio, on social media or in their own houses. Empty seats catch his attention. But if the NBA doesn’t allow fans in arenas next season, there will be no empty seats to count and no boos to hear.

Meanwhile, a source indicated Boylen remains confident that the coaching job will be his moving forward and that he will prove to his bosses that he is the right man for the job.

The bubble in Orlando isn’t the only thing that seems to be made of Teflon these days.