Westbrook, Thunder head to Chicago to face Bulls
CHICAGO — As Jim Boylen prepares to make his home debut as the coach of the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, his expectations of what is acceptable are just starting to take shape.
Boylen, who took over the struggling Bulls this week after Fred Hoiberg was fired, has already make it clear that a lack of energy or competitiveness will no longer be the status quo as had become an issue under Hoiberg.
But heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the adjustment period of how Hoiberg ran the team and how Boylen plans to operate will be short-lived as the Bulls attempt to get things moving in the right direction.
Boylen takes over a team that is getting closer to being healthier than it has been all season. Lauri Markkanen made his season debut this week and Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis are both moving closer to returning from injuries that have kept them sidelined for much of the season.
But after the Bulls dropped Boylen’s debut in a 96-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, Boylen put his team through an intense 2 1/2 hour practice as evidence that conditioning will be a key part of the way the Bulls play with Boylen running the show.
“We’re old school,” Boylen told reporters of his strategy to work his players hard, according to the Chicago Tribune. “There’s no shortcut to conditioning. We’re going to do it every day.”
Portis and Dunn have each been sidelined with MCL injuries, which has given both starters a front-row seat for many of the Bulls struggles. And while Bulls officials said that injuries have contributed to the issues that led to Hoiberg’s firing, a lack of energy and the way in which the Bulls have played at times played bigger roles in Hoiberg’s dismissal.
Boylen told reporters this week that something needs to change. Dunn told reporters that Boylen is right to demand something different.
“You can’t just install toughness into people, but they can play harder. They can definitely play tougher,” Dunn said, according to the Tribune. “But when it comes to toughness, I think you’re born with it. Either you got it or you don’t.”
The Thunder will enter Friday’s game on a four-game winning streak after beating the Brooklyn Nets 114-112 on Wednesday. Oklahoma City (16-7) extended their winning streak behind Paul George’s 47 points — 25 of which he scored in the fourth quarter, which George capped with a go-ahead 3-point field goal with 3.1 seconds remaining.
Oklahoma City rallied from 23 points down and will now carry the momentum of their winning streak and the last-second win into Friday’s game at the United Center.
“It wasn’t pretty at times but the one thing that our guys have is it’s a resilient group, it’s a competitive group that wants to win,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters after Wednesday’s win. “I give them a lot of credit starting the fourth quarter down by as many points as we were and have the resiliency and toughness to get back in the game and roll their way back into the game.”
Oklahoma City’s Dennis Schroder said the mentality the Thunder played with late in their latest win will be a must-have moving forward.
“That’s what we’ve got to do to get the championship,” Schroder told reporters. “We’ve got to be unselfish, we’ve got to trust each other.”
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