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How the latest Bulls drama began, and why players nearly no-showed practice

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Chicago has a new head coach, and things aren’t working out so far.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls are a mess. The league’s second-worst team by record lost by 56 points to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, then on Sunday, players debated on no-showing for a practice, according to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson. The practice was to be held the day after a back-to-back stretch, the latter game in which starters were pulled with 21 minutes to play in the record-setting blowout.

According to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes and Vincent Goodwill, Boylen had players run sprints and do military style push-ups over the course of three, two-and-a-half hour practices, and players were fed-up. Those tactics among others led the team to contact the NBA Players Association.

Veterans, according to Johnson, were adamant about showing, but “two or three” players were set on not. The group ultimately settled on a players only meeting, then players met with the coaching staff. According to The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez persuaded that outcome.

New Bulls coach Jim Boylen and the players stated the talks were constructive, but clearly things aren’t fine just one week after the ousting of former head coach Fred Hoiberg.

Why were the players so mad?

The drama began last Monday when Bulls management unexpectedly fired Hoiberg, despite the team’s many injuries to start the season. The group was losing but had all of one game with a healthy Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine has missed every game this season, and Bobby Portis is hurt too.

The Bulls replaced Hoiberg with assistant Jim Boylen, who is the polar opposite of the more laid back Hoiberg, and three games into his reign, he lost the locker room.

Boylen has an old school mentality. Due to wild travel schedules and an 82-game season, teams rarely run vigorous practices, typically opting for shoot-arounds. Not Boylen’s Bulls though.

“We’re old school. We get on the line,” Boylen said, according to Johnson. “There’s no shortcut to conditioning. We’re going to do it every day.”

Guard Ryan Arcidiacano really stressed how much running the team does.

“We’re doing a lot of running,” said Arcidiacono, according to NBC. “We’ve really gotten after each other. We’ve really played hard together, worked on the little things. We’re doing a lot of running, though. We’re getting up and down the floor.

”I can’t emphasize enough. We’re doing a lot of running. I think we’ll be getting in better shape.”

Those events led to the 56-point loss, which was the Bulls’ worst in franchise history. In the third quarter, amidst the blowout, Boylen permanently pulled his starters. They weren’t happy about that. According to Johnson, Zach LaVine interrupted a reporter’s question to chime in about the shock of the five-man substitution.

According to Yahoo, Boylen reiterated that it was a tactic Gregg Popovich, who he previously worked under, employed. But, “A player responded, telling Boylen in essence that they aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.”

So what did the players say?

After the drama LaVine, who is said to have led the players only meeting alongside Justin Holiday, and rookie Wendell Carter Jr. spoke, opting to keep a lot in-house.

Zach LaVine

“Very productive. I think it was something we needed to do, and I’m happy with the results of it. I think we just needed to all get on the same page,” said LaVine. “There’s not too many details we want to discuss about private meetings with players and coaches, but I think the main thing is we can tell you we went in there as a unit and we needed to get a lot of things off our chest. We tried to be transparent. I think moving forward that will help us.”

Wendell Carter Jr.

“I feel like that was needed,” Carter said. “I’m glad of what we did today. I feel like it was very productive, and when we were on the court we did some productive things in terms of having a meeting as a team.

“I don’t really want to talk about that. It was really a team kind of thing and togetherness kind of thing. We all agreed we’re a team, we don’t want to take what was said behind closed doors and bring it back all out into the open.”

What’d coach say?

“We had a productive day,” Boylen said. “I’m encouraged. We had a good meeting. I was hoping to have a full team practice, but it didn’t happen. The meeting went long. I thought we had a really good day, as we learn about each other, as we grow together, as we handle adversity individually and as a collective group, it’s cleared the clouds out of the way and we’re moving forward.”

The Bulls have low expectation this season, but have somehow become the center of attention. Again.