The second of Ricky Rubio’s free throws splashed through the net with 30.3 seconds left, pushing the Suns’ lead to 10 points.
By this point, Jim Boylen’s late-game timeouts that run counter to the norm have become as expected as his unapologetic reasoning behind them.
But when cameras catch Boylen’s star player in Zach LaVine for the second time this season expressing frustration over the unconventional move... Well, now you have a story. And given that the Bulls have lost eight straight and continue to field a team without several significant pieces, it’s a bigger one than the 112-104 loss.
“That’s what he do, man,” LaVine said, laughing. “I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not the coach. He told me he likes working on things we do in practice and things like that. He’s the coach. He can call timeout if he wants to.
“I just wish we were in the game. We played a really good game throughout the game and then we lose control. It’s just frustrating. Obviously, you never know what can happen type thing. But you’re down by 10 with 30 seconds left, it’s tough to stay locked in at the end of that.”
Speaking before LaVine addressed reporters, Boylen not only remained unapologetic about taking the timeout but disputed a question about LaVine showing frustration over them.
“We were just trying to get a 3, execute an action we’ve been working on,” Boylen said. “I think their pressure on our inbounds hurt us all night. We had a hard time getting the ball into actions.”
Just as they did on Feb. 2 in Toronto, TV cameras caught LaVine clearly mouthing frustration over the timeout.
“He hasn’t said a word to me about it agitating him,” Boylen said. “I don’t know if you’re reading his mind on that or you’re just making that assumption that that’s what he’s upset about. He hasn’t said a word to me about it. He’s very respectful about me coaching the team and me trying to help the team.
“I don’t think it is agitating guys. You’ll have to ask them.”
Just as reporters received access to the postgame locker room to do so, Boylen pulled LaVine into an off-limits area of the locker room. Asked if Boylen was upset with him, LaVine took the high road.
“We were just talking about some things throughout the game, some stuff I didn’t like and some stuff that happened throughout the game — player-coach things that we just talk about every once in awhile,” LaVine said. “We’re good. It just gets frustrating when you’re not winning. I think everybody gets frustrated. I wish we were in the game at the end of games. I want to be a winner. It gets tough when you’re start losing.”
The Bulls are doing so at such a rate that multiple news outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that offseason changes are coming to a new management structure. In light of the expected moves, Boylen said he’s not concerned about his status.
“My focus is to continue to coach this team and develop this group of guys. I have my marching orders from the front office to develop this group, get us to play hard, compete, and play the guys that are healthy and try and make them better. That’s what I’m focused on,” Boylen said. “As far as a distraction for the team and all that, I haven’t felt that. The guys have done a good job of the task at hand.’’
In fact, Boylen likely would opine that his late-game timeouts are exactly the type of teaching and accountability that ownership and management charged him with upon his hiring and contract extension. Even if they fly in the face of convention.