Bulls

Bulls expected to name Fred Hoiberg next coach Tuesday

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Bulls expected to name Fred Hoiberg next coach Tuesday

The NBA’s worst-kept secret has finally revealed itself, as Fred Hoiberg is expected Tuesday to be announced as the new coach of the Chicago Bulls, replacing the fired Tom Thibodeau.

Monday night, the Bulls announced that they will make a major announcement at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, which will air on Comcast SportsNet and stream live on CSNChicago.com. The deal is expected to be in the $5 million range annually.

Hoiberg, most recently coach of Iowa State since 2010, told reporters Monday as he left Ames, Iowa, for Chicago that he had meetings set up for Monday night. He is expected to take over a team that hopes to get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1998.

The 42-year old former Bull (1999-2003) has a strong relationship with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and has been rumored to be Thibodeau’s successor for months, and when Thibodeau was dismissed, all the buzz words used by Forman and Bulls VP John Paxson appeared to let everyone know they were making a beeline for Hoiberg.

[MORE BULLS: Van Gundy predicts Hoiberg will coach Bulls in shot at franchise]

The only holdup appeared to be Hoiberg’s health, as he underwent a second open-heart surgery in April, but apparently is OK to make the move to another high-pressure environment in Chicago.

“I coached Fred and was with him five years,” said former NBA coach and current coach at Southern Methodist, Larry Brown, on the “Four Quarters Podcast” with Adam Zagoria and Zach Schonbrun. “Unbelievable respect and admiration for him. He’ll do great. He has a pro background. He knows how to deal with people. The kids he got at Iowa State weren’t always the greatest kids in the world, and he dealt with them and dealt with them extremely well. He can handle personalities. He’s going to a great team.”

Hoiberg spent time in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office before taking a coaching job at Iowa State, earning a 115-56 record that included four NCAA Tournament appearances.

Brown added he spent time with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the two Bulls mainstays, and he feels Hoiberg will be a good fit for a veteran team with strong personalities and a foundation laid by Thibodeau.

[MORE BULLS: Breakdown in communication seemed to play a part in Thibodeau's firing]

He continues the trend of college coaches getting fertile and lucrative NBA jobs, in the mold of Boston’s Brad Stevens (Butler) and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan (Florida).

There doesn’t seem to be the fear that accompanied making the leap, which was rampant for the last 10 to 15 years. Brown jumped back and forth, becoming one of the most successful coaches in basketball history.

“They always talked about I was the only college coach who went to the NBA and done well,” Brown said. “I had owners that gave me a chance and stuck with me. Most of these guys who’ve gone to the NBA haven’t gotten a lot of time to show how good they can coach. I think Fred will do great.”

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It starts with the relationship with the Bulls executives Forman and Paxson, the one thing most glaring about Thibodeau’s tenure with the Bulls. Both sides were frequently at odds, and Hoiberg will have to win over a fan base that stood behind the coach who took them back to relevance.

“We're really looking for the right fit,” Forman said at the press conference addressing Thibodeau’s dismissal. “I went through some of those things that I talked about, obviously someone that could lead, someone that can communicate at a high level, has a great knowledge of the game. Obviously experience is a plus, as far as coaching is concerned. If they've been a head coach, even more so. But we're not going to limit the search in any way.”

Hoiberg seemed to be the only man on the Bulls’ radar, though, and he's expected to be tasked with elevating the Bulls’ offense and by proxy, helping the franchise take the next step in an Eastern Conference that seems to be ripe for the taking.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”