Dan the pan: Gaf­ford zings Boylen

Rookie on coach: ‘I don’t like him a lot, but he OK’

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - JOE COW­LEY jcow­ley@sun­times.com | @JCow­leyHoops

Rookie Daniel Gaf­ford didn’t need a pri­vate Zoom meet­ing with the Bulls’ new front of­fice to make his feel­ings known about coach Jim Boylen.

Rather, the big man sim­ply took to his Twitch ac­count to of­fer his opin­ion.

“I’m go­ing to an­swer this ques­tion, but I’m not go­ing to read it out,’’ said Gaf­ford, while he was streaming some NBA 2K20 on Mon­day. “As a mat­ter of fact, I will read it out — ‘Do you like Jim Boylen?’ He [all right]. I don’t like him a lot, but he OK. Got some things he can work on, got some things he can get bet­ter at as a per­son and as a coach. I’m not go­ing to hate on him. I’m not go­ing to hate the man.’’

The 6-10 sec­ond-round pick out of Arkansas cer­tainly didn’t do his coach any fa­vors with those com­ments. Not when Boylen’s rep­u­ta­tion with his play­ers wasn’t on the best foot­ing to be­gin with.

The Sun-Times re­ported sev­eral months ago that ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions Ar­turas Kar­niso­vas has re­ceived mixed mes­sages from key play­ers in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions dur­ing his first week on the job. That car­ried a lot of weight in the front of­fice’s will­ing­ness to part with Boylen de­spite be­ing well-liked by own­er­ship.

Be­sides com­ments the new regime was hear­ing from play­ers, the Sun-Times also re­ported that there were some be­hind-the-scenes is­sues with Boylen that didn’t fall in the coach’s fa­vor and couldn’t be ig­nored by Kar­niso­vas and new gen­eral man­ager Marc Ever­s­ley.

Add Gaf­ford’s com­ments to the grow­ing file.

And while Gaf­ford car­ries only a lit­tle weight in the cur­rent player hi­er­ar­chy of the Bulls, he’s still a high-ceil­ing prospect that showed some raw tal­ent be­fore the sea­son was shut down.

In 43 games, Gaf­ford av­er­aged 5.1 points and 1.3 blocks in 14.2 min­utes.

A source told the Sun-Times on Tues­day that the Gaf­ford com­ments don’t come as a sur­prise, es­pe­cially be­cause Gaf­ford felt Boylen was ex­tremely hard on him in fall camp. Boylen even ad­mit­ted he was be­ing a “hardass’’ on the rookie but ex­plained that he saw po­ten­tial in the cen­ter and didn’t want him wast­ing it.

That sounds fair, but the prob­lem for Boylen is there are very few play­ers who have come out and said, “Jim is our guy and the right coach for this job mov­ing for­ward.’’

There have been more, “I mean, he has a voice. He’s been our coach all year, so, hey, what­ever hap­pens to him is what hap­pens. But for now, he’s our coach. It is what it is.’’

That was the at­ti­tude of Den­zel Valen­tine late in the sea­son when he was asked by the Sun-Times about Boylen and if the play­ers were still listening to him.

So why is this en­tire is­sue still in limbo? Be­cause the Bulls are still in limbo. The or­ga­ni­za­tion still is hold­ing out hope that the cur­rent 22-team bub­ble in Or­lando, Florida, holds firm, giv­ing birth to the “Chicago 8’’ bub­ble for the re­main­ing teams that were left out.

That would give Kar­niso­vas the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to eval­u­ate Boylen and the way he in­ter­acts with his play­ers and staff, mak­ing any move he makes fair in the eyes of the Reins­dorfs.

The new ex­ec­u­tive has in­sisted sev­eral times that he would be “de­lib­er­ate’’ in the coach­ing eval­u­a­tion process and has one ad­van­tage on his side: Time.

“In or­der for me to keep play­ers and coaches ac­count­able, I have to have per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with them,’’ Kar­niso­vas said last month. “That’s what I need to cul­ti­vate. That’s my ob­jec­tive this off­sea­son.’’

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

Bulls coach Jim Boylen chats with rookie Daniel Gaf­ford dur­ing a game against the Heat in De­cem­ber.

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