Bulls coach Jim Boylen expected pushback from his players and welcomed it

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Bulls coach Jim Boylen said he was expecting all of it: pushback from the players, talk of a practice coup, calls to the union.

And he was embracing it.

“I expected something like [Sunday] to happen,’’ Boylen said matter-of-factly Monday. “I’ve been waiting for it; I’ve been prepared for it. We took it head-on. Change is difficult. It’s raw, it’s tough. These jobs are about managing everybody’s fear. As a head coach, you’ve got to manage everybody’s fear and keep the thing moving along. And that’s what we’re trying to do. I expected all of this. It’s all good.

“You’ve got to go through some tough moments, some adversity. When change happens and guys don’t know where they stand, they don’t know what’s expected.

“I’ve tried to tell them, but this is not a negotiation.’’

It’s not, and that has become apparent to the players as they try to decipher exactly what Boylen is about.

Is he genuine, is he a prophet, is he a drill sergeant, is he a used-car salesman or all of the above? What they found out on Day 8 of the Boylen experiment is that his word is law — at least for now.

After the franchise-worst 56-point loss to the Celtics on Saturday night, Boylen questioned player toughness and leadership and called for a practice Sunday after back-to-back games and with a game coming up Monday night.

There were several players so upset with the practice, and that he subbed out all five starters at once two times against Boston, that there was talk of a teamwide no-show Sunday. Veterans — led by Robin Lopez — stepped in and called for a players-­only meeting that coaches and front-office members participated in.

So when one reporter at the news conference Monday asked Boylen about the possible mutiny and used “they’’ — referring to the players — he made sure everyone knew who was in charge.

“That’s not true,’’ Boylen said. “That is not true that ‘they’ didn’t want to have practice. ‘They’ means everybody. I don’t like that narrative; I don’t want that out there. The truth is we had a couple of guys that thought a Sunday practice was excessive after the week we had, and they have to trust me that if I bring them in here to practice, I’m going to manage their legs and manage what we’re going to do. They didn’t understand that, so I explained it to them.’’

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Then there was a Yahoo report that had players calling the union to complain about the rough practice schedule. The Sun-Times confirmed that at least one player did call.

“We’re able to say anything we wanted to say,’’ forward Justin Holiday said when asked about reaching out to the union. “But this is going to all stay in-house about how everything happened.’’

The Bulls’ front office told the Sun-Times that it was not aware of the league being contacted, but Boylen went a step further, even applauding his players if they did make that call.

“Yeah, that’s great; they have every right to do that,’’ Boylen said. “I’m not taking it personally. I’m not like, ‘You can’t call.’ They can call. I know the [practice] rules. I know what the rules are. So, yeah, no problem, but it doesn’t deter from the fact that we’re going to work, and we’re going to practice. And the guys that want to work are going to work.’’

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