Coach Boylen readies for emotional return to San Antonio Saturday night
Boylen was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich before coming to Chicago
Mike D'Antoni earned a coaching reputation and a place in the NBA Slogans Record Book with his Seven Seconds or Less offense. It was the anthem of the high scoring, quick draw Phoenix Suns of the early 2000s than many credit as the inspiration for the high scoring play of this era.
Former Spurs assistant Jim Boylen, returning to San Antonio Saturday for the first time as Bulls head coach, says it will be emotional to coach against Gregg Popovich and his former team with whom he was part of the 2014 NBA title. But Boylen also said one of the biggest things he learned as a Spurs assistant was Point Five.
"They're a big believer in less is more," Boylen said about the Spurs' Way. "Sometimes we all take ourselves a little too seriously, maybe do a little too much, overcoach. There it's less is more: Keep it simple, get in a stance, keep your man in front of you, move the ball, point 5.
"They don't really have a rule book," said Boylen. "They have standards of behavior and play. That's the beauty of that place. That's what we are trying to get to, every night have these standards we uphold and believe in. Defensively we have to have a standard, not let people do what they want. We're not there yet. Offensively the ball moves, open man gets the ball. Golden rule, point five. That's what holds that place up."
Uh, Jim, point five?
"Point five means when the ball gets (to) you, you either drive it, you either shoot it or you pass it within point five," Boylen explained. "You see the next play, you understand the next option. We don't want to grab, hold; the ball sticks. The ball doesn't stick there. Make the next play. We have a tendency to catch it and (hold and dribble in place). That's not good basketball in my opinion; it's hard to break now because guys have been doing this."
No, Boylen wasn't expressly talking about Zach LaVine, who does have a tendency at times to isolate with a dribble. Though perhaps LaVine deserves some latitude because he is by far the best difficult shot maker on the team and the team's top scorer.
And it doesn't appear likely he will play Saturday in San Antonio.
LaVine sustained an apparent ankle injury on the last possession in the 97-91 Thursday loss to the Orlando Magic in Mexico City. The Bulls waited to return to San Antonio for a late afternoon MRI Friday. The Bulls, according to NBA.com, listed LaVine as doubtful for the game with the Spurs. Chandler Hutchison was listed as questionable after missing Thursday's game due to illness.
"When you win a championship, it's obviously a bonding experience. I learned a lot there. They do it a different way there."
- Coach Boylen about his time in San Antonio as an assistant coach
It would be a major blow to a reeling Bulls team to lose LaVine for any stretch of games. Not only is LaVine the Bulls leading scorer—leading the team in 21 of the 29 games—but he has proven vital in keeping the Bulls in games, as he did again Thursday against Orlando with a run of eight of nine points when the Magic in the second quarter took their biggest lead of the game at 11 points. It could easily have gone to 20 without LaVine's mostly individual play in that stretch. Though the Bulls haven't embraced the Point Five mantra quite yet.
LaVine told Bulls doctors he heard a pop. He said afterwards he didn't believe it was serious, though pop is not a great sound except with breakfast cereal and responding to the Spurs coach.
But that also could make Jabari Parker's removal from the regular rotation short.
Parker played just four minutes off the bench against the Magic, presumably as Boylen emphasizes defensive intensity and effort and increases the playing time of center Robin Lopez. But the Bulls are by far the poorest offensive teams in the NBA, last in scoring and last in offensive efficiency. It would seem pointless—pun intended—to ignore Parker with LaVine not playing. Though Parker's defensive effort often has been unsatisfactory, he is second on the team in scoring, behind only centers Lopez and Wendell Carter Jr. in shooting percentage and tied for second in rebounding. It's also possible Boylen returns Kris Dunn as a starter, though is averaging seven points and just five shots per game off the bench in his two games since his return from a knee injury.
Lauri Markkanen, meanwhile, conceded Thursday he is having difficulty getting into proper condition and rhythm after his long absence with an elbow injury. He is shooting just 35 percent in his six games since his return. Thus it would be difficult to see where the Bulls could make up the scoring without both LaVine and Parker, the latter second in scoring, though more than 12 points fewer per game than LaVine.
Plus, the Spurs are playing the best they have this season. They have won four straight to get back over .500—could everyone be wrong for the 10th consecutive season that the Spurs now are dead?—and are playing their best defense of the season, second in the league in defense during the last four games. They just beat the Clippers by 38 points and talked afterward of not taking the Bulls lightly again after winning by just a point in Chicago last month.
Then the Bulls, 6-23, go to Oklahoma City, where the Thunder figure also not to overlook the Bulls after losing in Chicago earlier this month in Boylen's second game after replacing Fred Hoiberg.
"Absolutely emotional (return)," said Boylen, who added he still has his home in San Antonio, which apparently doesn't have a brisk housing market or limited real estate agents. "So much respect for him (Popovich), his staff, R.C. (Buford, general manager). When you win a championship, it's obviously a bonding experience. I learned a lot there. They do it a different way there. It was fun to experience that. We loved living there. (Maybe) I can sneak over and jump in my pool.
"That you can coach your guys hard," Boylen said about his greatest lesson watching Popovich. "(That) you can demand excellence and build relationships and still play hard, still compete, (but) at the end of the day you are at the whim of the character of your guys. And they've had some big time character dudes."
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