Bulls lose in Mexico City; coach Jim Boylen lays down law to Jabari Parker
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MEXICO CITY — In the frantic pace of a city with 8.85 million people, the Bulls finally have found some calm.
That’s what the trip to Mexico City has brought for a team — and, specifically, a locker room — that was the chaotic center of the NBA universe for more than a week for all the wrong reasons.
‘‘I think we definitely had a rough couple of days, but I think we’ve done a great job of keeping an open mind and coming together,’’ big man Lauri Markkanen said before the Bulls’ 97-91 loss Thursday to the Magic.
‘‘Rough days’’ is one way to look at it.
Coach Fred Hoiberg was fired and assistant Jim Boylen was promoted to replace him Dec. 3. That led to a series of events that included training-camp-style practices — running sprints included — several players failing to start a mutiny against Boylen, a players-only meeting that led to the formation of a leadership committee and now the picking up of the pieces.
And not only picking them up but cleaning them off.
Maybe that’s why defensive liability Jabari Parker played a season-low 4 minutes, 10 seconds in the loss and might find himself with even less playing time in the future.
A Bulls source said Parker’s playing time will be determined by how well he competes in practices, specifically on defense. Boylen no longer will tolerate Parker seemingly playing defense only when he feels like it.
‘‘I talked to Jabari about his role and where he is in the rotation,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘Going forward, he’s part of our team, and it’s not about the individual. It’s about playing your minutes the best you can. We’ll see where his minutes are going forward.’’
Parker admitted he was taken aback.
‘‘It is a surprise because I did everything I could in the time I was given.’’ Parker said. ‘‘But it is what it is. You can’t pout. You’ve just gotta keep moving.’’
Markkanen, meanwhile, suddenly is carrying a stronger voice in the locker room. He is one of the five members of the leadership committee, along with center Robin Lopez, small forward Justin Holiday, big man Bobby Portis and shooting guard Zach LaVine. Even more important, he is one of the three players — LaVine and big man Wendell Carter Jr. are the others — the Bulls deem keepers as they move forward.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson made it clear Wednesday that the rebuild is about Markkanen, Carter and LaVine developing into elite players, then the Bulls becoming a free-agent destination.
That’s the plan, at least.
‘‘All along, what we’ve talked about is . . . if our young guys develop the way we think they can develop and they become top NBA-type players — Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach [LaVine], to that degree — and you get to be a pretty good basketball team, I think that sells people wanting to play with guys like that,’’ Paxson said.
It’s Boylen’s job to get those three to that level and to keep point guard Kris Dunn and Portis moving forward. Then the Bulls must decide what else they have. And as the players have found out in the first 11 days under Boylen, that weeding-out process will be handled his way.