CHICAGO — Bulls guard Zach LaVine was pulled early in the first quarter of Chicago’s loss to the Miami Heat on Friday night by head coach Jim Boylen for what Boylen called “three egregious defensive mistakes,” singling out the Bulls’ best player.
The Bulls fell behind 13-0 at the 8:33 mark of the first, and LaVine was benched following a timeout, replaced by Ryan Arcidiacono. By the time LaVine returned six minutes later, the Heat’s lead ballooned to 28-11 and later a 26-point cushion before a late comeback made the 116-108 final look respectable.
“I thought, ‘He needs a break,’” Boylen said. “I thought he needed to come in and think about it. I felt there were some defensive mistakes that didn’t need to be made. I thought he needed to come over and think about it for a minute.”
The Bulls have suffered from slow starts this season, and individual performances from LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, the key pieces from the Bulls’ trade of Jimmy Butler on draft night in 2017, have tailed off to start the season as the Bulls (5-11) have underwhelmed.
LaVine averaged a career-high 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season and looked like an All-Star candidate, but is averaging just 19.8 points this season and shooting 40.9 percent from the field. Markkanen looks completely uncomfortable in Year 3, shooting less than 37.3 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from 3-point range.
The Bulls have changed their offensive system from last year to emphasize more 3-point shooting and it hasn’t yet paid off.
“Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen and our starters have to play better. They’ve got to play better for us to become what we can become. That’s how it works,” Boylen said. “I didn’t want [LaVine] in the game anymore. I think he needed to come over and think about it.”
LaVine felt singled out by the act, telling reporters, “I guess I was to blame for it. I’ve got pulled early before by him. I guess that’s just his thing to do. You have to take it in stride. I’m not the coach.”
The relationship between LaVine and Boylen has hit a rough patch, and LaVine talked to Yahoo Sports after the game.
Q: Does [Boylen] trust you?
A: I feel I earned that trust, but I guess he feels differently. Other players around the league — and everybody's situation isn't the same — I feel other players around the league have that trust. I guess we haven't got there.
Q: What happened to that trust?
A: I wish I knew. I feel we had a good offseason. He came and visited us and wanted us to work on certain things. With this start, there's been some lack of trust and sh- - you view differently, different opinions on.
Q: Do you trust him still?
A: I’m trying my best, I'll say that. I'm playing my minutes and trying to do the best I can do. It's tough, especially when you're in a rut. If he doesn't trust me, it's hard to trust someone who doesn't trust you.
Q: [You] played your best ball last year. What happened?
A: It’s just different. Different team, different system. You have to take responsibility for what you have. Multiple people aren't in rhythm and it's tough to find it.
Q: Can you rebuild trust?
A: I try to build it back up or find somewhere in the middle to where you can have an understanding. I don't think it's gone.
Q: Do you need to talk directly?
A: We talk a lot. We need to have a sit-down talk? Maybe. Maybe we should. I think he's a direct guy. We'll figure out a time and place to do it and see where we see eye to eye at.
Q: Boylen called out you and Markkanen specifically about playing better ...
A: Obviously, I think everybody needs to do better. Coaching staff on down. It can't just be the players. You can't single out guys, it's not just two players, five players. It’s everybody. I take responsibility for my mistakes, I know I haven't played the best basketball yet. I'll continue to get better. I've been working on it. I think everybody needs to take responsibility.
Q: Can Boylen take criticism?
A: I hope so. It's a man's league. We all gotta take responsibility for our mistakes. I know I do. Can't talk for other people.
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