Hoiberg teaching veteran Bulls basics on Day 1


Hoiberg teaching veteran Bulls basics on Day 1

The start of an eight-month march began with simple installations of basic offensive and defensive concepts from Fred Hoiberg on the first day of Bulls’ training camp.

Aside from a hard elbow Derrick Rose took midway through practice that kept him out for the remainder of it, Hoiberg and the players said all the things one would expect after the first go-round, as the Bulls are a week away from their exhibition opener against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center.

“I thought it was really good. Guys picked things up very quickly,” Hoiberg said. “It was very competitive once we started getting up and down. There was a lot of teaching in this early part of the season, trying to implement some of the new things we’re trying to do and get everyone on the same page. But it was a good competitive hard practice.”

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Coming from Iowa State but having NBA roots, he didn’t cite much difference between the college practices and ones in the NBA. He’ll have assistant coach Jim Boylen be more hands-on with the defense, but as a whole, he wasn’t trying to flood them with information on Day 1.

“Not a lot of differences. You still gotta go out there and teach them. We just had a basic one-on-one spacing talk before we got rolling this morning,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest difference is you’re preparing for an 82-game schedule as opposed to a 30-game schedule. You got less time before you start playing with a preseason game just a week away. So it’s getting ready with less time. So you have to put a lot of things in and we’ll get that accomplished in the non-contact part in the mornings.”

Considering the Bulls are an established team with not much roster turnover, it’s not like Hoiberg has to start from scratch when putting in his system. Aside from watching the workload of Pau Gasol, who just returned from the European Championships and is 35 years old, it’s not like he had to do a lot of teaching.

He also has to monitor Taj Gibson, who went through a full practice without any issues after undergoing left ankle surgery in June, but this camp is clearly about laying the foundation for a modified identity.

“That’s the great thing about this group. They’ve been around the NBA a long time,” Hoiberg said. “With our thinking, we have to be a little careful with the load we put on this group, especially some of the guys and their summer like Pau. We have to be careful and make sure he’s fresh for the opener on the 27th.

“But for the most part, they pick things up very quickly. We had a little pre-practice to get some of the guys caught up that haven’t been around. But I was very pleased with the flow of the practice. Now it’s about building and getting better every day.”

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Jimmy Butler was singled out, among others, as one of those who had a good first day, which Hoiberg credited to Butler’s offseason regimen. Butler said he knows the preseason will be full of adjustments, experimenting and learning.

“There has to be. A lot of things are different on offense and defense,” Butler said. “I like to play defense, but even things are new to me, the way we’re going to do things. I think that’s OK, but everyone has to buy into it as a team.”

Of course Butler was asked — and this will be a running storyline at every turn this season — how the first practice compared to the ones run by Tom Thibodeau, Hoiberg’s predecessor.

“He’s very hands on, like he’ll stop practice and tell you what it’s supposed to be — you got to make this pass, you got to cut this way,” Butler said. “And then at the same time, he gives you the freedom to play offense. And then at the same time, he’s like you got to get out there and guard, so it’s fun.”

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury


Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.