Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dysfunction Reigns in Chicago Locker Room

Listening to Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylan suggest to reporters last Monday that things were fine with his team was frustrating from a fan's perspective. "I just know that what I do in the locker room and with this team, I'm in control. I run this team," he reminded us. We knew better.

We knew better before this latest tidbit surfaced in ESPN's Weekend Dime. Marc Stein, investigating the Tyrus Thomas debacle, discovered Thomas wasn't the only Bull upset with the way Boylan was handling the team.

The story, as I hear it from one team insider, is that Thomas had recently witnessed heated confrontations between Bulls coach Jim Boylan and two of Chicago's more veteran players -- Ben Gordonand Kirk Hinrich -- that wound up pitting multiple players against the coaching staff. I'm also told that Thomas figured he was heading for a similarly nasty blowup of his own with Boylan, but that he also concluded that the punishment for an argument with Boylan would be a lot steeper than what Gordon and Hinrich faced, given where he stands in the Bulls' pecking order and the growing stress of a tension-drenched season.

So Thomas -- confused by recent nine-minute stints against Washington and Memphis after being told he'd be getting steady minutes off the bench in the wake of the Bulls trading away Ben Wallace and Joe Smith -- decided that the smartest move was taking a one-day leave to clear his head.
For starters, Stein confirms the widespread speculation that Thomas was upset with the way he was being utilized. I, too, find it disheartening that Boylan benched Thomas after a very good stretch of basketball following the trade. I touched on that topic earlier.

More important to the Bulls is the situation with Hinrich and Gordon. Hinrich is a team captain. Gordon is the team's leading scorer. Both possess the good character and work ethic GM John Paxson spoke of when he began rebuilding the franchise. These are the guys openly question their coach?

With all of the trouble the Chicago Bulls played, albeit at a low level, through, it appears obvious that Boylan is lacking control of the team. If you haven't been keeping track at home, here is a fairly complete list of the Bulls problems this season.
  1. During training camp, the Bulls voted to allow Ben Wallace and only Ben Wallace to wear his patented headband. Unfortunately, his signature defense wasn't included.
  2. Prior to the first game of the season, Gordon and forward Luol Deng declined lucrative contract extensions. As karma would have it, both would take a step back this season.
  3. Bulls started the season, but we kept on justifying it. They always start poorly!
  4. Paxson fired coach Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve when it became apparent things weren't getting better and after the team tuned him out.
  5. Subsequently, Boylan was hired.
  6. Joakim Noah was involved in an altercation with assistant coach Ron Adams. Despite the good relationship between Noah and Adams, Wallace and Adrian Griffin called a team meeting to vote on punishment for Noah's actions. Noah sat two games.
  7. Fresh off of his suspension, Noah openly challenged the motivation of the veteran Wallace. Personally, I don't see this as a problem; at least someone acknowledged Wallace was playing entitlement minutes.
  8. Rookie JamesOn Curry was arrested for public urination and resisting arrest while assigned to the Iowa Energy of the NBDL.
  9. Bulls acquire Hughes and Drew Gooden. Hughes made noise by saying having fun was more important than winning championships. Still, my favorite post-trade quote comes from Gooden, who said, "I could pass, I could block shots, I could play great defense, I could play help defense, I could shoot 3s. I believe I could do it all." You could start playing like that anytime.
  10. Hinrich and Gordon confronted Boylan sometime during this period.
  11. Thomas skipped practice and was suspended for two games.
  12. Days later, rookie center Aaron Gray criticized Boylan for removing him from the game, saying, "That's what I get for working hard?" I think it became clear that there were problems when Vanilla Thunder started complaining.
  13. Duhon skipped practice after going to the Duke-North Carolina game. He then downplayed it by saying, "I haven't been playing a lot anyway." A fine and suspension served as punishment.
  14. No new photos surfaced of a drunken Duhon performing lap dances.
  15. Players were seen laughing during a loss against Detroit.
  16. Bulls excused Joakim Noah from practice Wednesday to visit Florida and his former team. Who needs to focus on the season at hand?
  17. The Bulls sport a 26-39 record, leaving them in tenth place in the lowly Eastern Conference.
Each situation comes down to one thing: winning. If the team made a great turn around under Boylan -- or better yet, started well -- the other problems would not have snowballed. Players would be content with their roles or at least keep their unhappiness to themselves. Duhon and Noah would have focused on their current team instead of looking back on their college days. Hinrich, Gordon, and Thomas would be unable to question Boylan's would-be winning decisions. But alas! The Bulls trail the Atlanta Hawks and Boylan is forced to tell us he has the dysfunctional Chicago locker room under control. We know better.


About the Undrafted Free Agent

Ron Crimson was the only player on the high school roster to not get in a game. He couldn't argue with the decision, because he sucked. Needless to say, yet stated anyway, when he entered the NBA draft following his sophomore season in college, he went undrafted. Now, Ron Crimson is the Undrafted Free Agent.

Contact the Undrafted Free Agent

Interested in informing the Undrafted Free Agent of his mistakes, advertisement opportunities, or a scoop on the latest sports scandal? (You can guess which is more likely.) Well, email him at undraftedfreeagent [at]

Look at This!

There's nothing here; I just needed to fill some space. Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! I also needed to balance it out a bit.

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