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Meaningless win for Bulls in Boylan's finale

Chicago BullsNBAManagement ChangeUnited CenterThabo SefoloshaTyrus ThomasChris Duhon

If you're just crawling out from the rock under which you hid when, say, Scott Skiles got fired or Ben Wallace got traded or another loss followed another off-the-court transgression, here's all you need to know about the Bulls' 42nd season:

On a night Joakim Noah was scheduled to lead a pregame speech thanking fans for their support, he got benched in favor of Kirk Hinrich—and removed from the starting lineup—because he arrived 65 minutes before tipoff.

A season that began with NBA Finals aspirations ended Wednesday night at the United Center with a meaningless 107-97 victory over the playoff-bound Raptors, who played mostly reserves.

On Thursday, the carnage will claim a second coach, interim Jim Boylan.

Exactly reversing last season's record, the Bulls avoided posting their first 50-loss season since 2003-04. But to put matters in perspective, even Johnny "Red" Kerr's expansion Bulls won 33 games in 1966-67.

Asked, beyond the 33-49 record, what disappointed him most about this season, Boylan didn't hesitate.

"Our lack of maturity as a team," he said. "I thought we were at a different place. But at times this year we let things bother us that I thought we were past. I thought we had a formula for how to be successful and everybody understood it. But as you reflect back on the season, that wasn't the case."

Noah's tardiness is just the latest example of an individual agenda trumping a team need, even if his reason to be in New York on the Bulls' off day Monday was because of the death of a close friend.

The Bulls gave Noah permission to fly home but told him to return in time for Wednesday's 4:30 p.m. shootaround at the United Center. Instead, Noah strolled in at 6:25 p.m., 25 minutes later than even the normal reporting time if the shootaround was in the morning.

Noah started the second quarter, by which point Aaron Gray already had tallied a double-double en route to 19 points and 22 rebounds. Tyrus Thomas led the Bulls with 26 points.

Not that statistics matter in a season in which two coaches will be fired. General manager John Paxson has refused comment on Boylan's status until after a planned Thursday meeting.

But all signs point to Boylan's dismissal after a 24-32 stint that featured everything from injuries, a franchise-changing trade and enough off-the-court silliness to make one's head spin.

"I would love to get a chance to coach this team because I feel there's work still to be done," Boylan said. "I was brought in here in the middle of the season. It was a tough situation. A lot of things happened. That's part of being in the NBA, with injuries and trades.

"If you look at our statistics over the time I took over to this point right here, they're much improved over where they were over the first eight weeks of the season."

That won't stop Paxson from conducting interviews from a lengthy list that includes some of the usual suspects such as Rick Carlisle and some hot assistants such as Tom Thibodeau. Or Boylan from taking the high road.

"Some of the young guys have gotten better," he said. "Joakim, it's disappointing he's late, but he has improved. Thabo [Sefolosha] has gotten better. Aaron has potential down the road.

"Other than that, no one has had a better year than last year, certainly statistically."

Players have been shell-shocked for weeks.

"It was tough, especially with all the expectations we had," said guard Chris Duhon, who will be elsewhere next season. "There were a lot of things that escalated and kept spiraling downward. We couldn't get control and regroup like we had done."

That was apparent and true from October training camp onward through a season that didn't even feature a three-game winning streak. And now it's over.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Chicago BullsNBAManagement ChangeUnited CenterThabo SefoloshaTyrus ThomasChris Duhon
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