Here's where rough Bulls' season stands: Competitive losses mark progress

K.C. Johnson

PORTLAND, Ore. - Jim Boylen talks to executive vice president John Paxson every day and senior adviser Doug Collins almost as often.

The compatibility between Boylen, ownership and management has been well-documented. Boylen even had significant input on personnel this past offseason.

But what about the other direction? Management hires coaches to coach, but Paxson has never been shy about sharing his basketball opinions. Collins long has been known as one of the game's great in-game tacticians.

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What do they think about the Bulls' offensive and defensive philosophies?

"I think they see what we're trying to do. First of all, we're trying to establish a system, a style of play. That's important to install for who we are and who we want to be," Boylen said. "I think on the defensive end it's grown a little faster than the offensive end. And then you evaluate it and the shots we get and the shots we've had I think our shots we can make and plays we can make. For some reason, we've underperformed our shot profile. We hope that doesn't continue.

"They've been very supportive. What I do is I include them in everything. They're in our team video sessions. John was at practice [Thursday]. There's no situation where they don't know what's being taught and how we're teaching it."

The Bulls posted their third three-game losing streak of the young season Friday after a hard-fought 107-103 loss to the Trail Blazers. They're on pace for 24.6 victories.

Moral victories don't exist in professional sports. But Boylen pointed to Friday's effort as proof that there's no shame in the systems he's trying to implement and the commitment he believes he's still receiving from players.

"I don't see why it wouldn't," Boylen said, when asked if he believes buy-in will continue.

Once down by as many as 12, the Bulls pulled within 105-103 on a three-pointer from Zach LaVine, who scored 28, late in the fourth. But after forcing a miss from Damian Lillard in which Wendell Carter Jr. shifted to help Kris Dunn, Hassan Whiteside slipped inside Tomas Satoransky, who also had a man in the corner to pay attention to, and put back a bone-crushing tip-in with 8.8 seconds left.

Boylen lost himself in the emotion of the moment, staggering onto the floor like a punch-drunk boxer to signal timeout.

"This loss hurts," Boylen said. "This is a painful loss. Every loss, these guys take to heart. This was a hard-fought loss. Give them credit. They made more plays at the end."

Whiteside posted a franchise-record 10 blocks to go with his eight points and 15 rebounds. The Bulls continue to lead the NBA in attempts within five feet and somehow rank last in converting those shots. Whiteside's night won't help that statistic.

"He's a good shotblocker," Boylen said. "I think you have to get into his body. I think we faded a few times. He's good at blocking the fade. It's more difficult when you get into his body. Put it on the officials. That's the learning thing on that."

More learning: Lillard attacked the rim twice late in critical moments. LaVine settled for a midrange and an early three-pointer, missing both, before converting his late three-pointer. LaVine did get to the line 10 times, typically indicative of a smart approach by him.

Satoransky played through a sprained big left toe to finish with 12 points and eight assists with just one turnover. He rued the difficulty of guarding the Whiteside putback.

"It's tough to grab the rebound over him," Satoransky said. "I was in position to try to smash down. But I had a guy in the corner as well. It was a good tip by him."

Satoransky agreed with Boylen's assessment that players are still working to right a listing ship. But that's where the Bulls are now: Competitive losses mark progress.

"It's frustrating, but that's this league," Satoransky said. "We really feel like we're really close. That keeps you going. You have to stay positive."

Boylen has been mostly positive in virtually all his postgame media sessions.

"We talked about the moment in the third at home against these guys when they were making their run and we didn't handle it very well," Boylen said. "We had that same conversation in the timeout when we were down [12]. I was really happy with the way our guys responded and fought and battled back. I thought we ran well, our defense was good and they made skilled, timely shots.

"We need to keep playing the way we're playing, which is hard and together. The wins will come. Wins are always good. But we're building this thing. We got the blocks being laid. I like our effort, our togetherness and our competitiveness."

What makes Boylen thinks the wins will come?

"If you build it, they will come," Boylen said.

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Here's where rough Bulls' season stands: Competitive losses mark progress originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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