Bulls

Jim Boylen 'really ecstatic' for Fred Hoiberg's hiring at Nebraska

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USA TODAY

Jim Boylen 'really ecstatic' for Fred Hoiberg's hiring at Nebraska

Fred Hoiberg’s loss was Jim Boylen’s game in December when the former was hired by the Bulls and the latter took over. But Hoiberg’s unemployment lasted only a little less than 4 months when Nebraska University officially named him the men’s basketball coach on Saturday.

The Cornhuskers fired Tim Miles on Tuesday after seven seasons, and moved quickly to hire Hoiberg, who was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and whose grandfather was head coach from 1955 to 1963. It’ll be Hoiberg’s second stint in the college ranks after he led his alma mater Iowa State to four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons before taking over as Bulls head coach in 2015.

Hoiberg reportedly was looking for an NBA gig but that never surfaced, and instead of waiting out the potential carousel this offseason opted instead to return to the college ranks. That didn’t surprise Boylen, who said he was “really ecstatic” that Hoiberg landed the gig.

“I know he loves coaching college basketball. We’ve had many of those conversations,” Boylen said. “He did a terrific job at Iowa State. It looks like Nebraska is right in his wheelhouse and I’m sure he’ll take that program to the next level. Happy for him and his family.

“Fred’s got a great heart and he’s a good recruiter, he’s proven that. They need a good recruiter there. From what I hear they have all the facilities, all the trimmings for that program to take off. So he can do it, he will do it and I’m happy for him and his family.”

Hoiberg was able to turn around Iowa State’s program and it appears he’ll face a similar rebuild in Lincoln. The Cyclones had suffered four straight losing seasons and had one winning record in the Big 12 since 2002 when Hoiberg took over in 2011. A quick look at the Huskers' roster shows that its top three scorers - James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr. and Glynn Watson - are all seniors.

“I can’t express how excited I am to be back on the sidelines and to be coaching at a university that means a lot to my family and me,” Hoiberg said in a press release.

“Lincoln is a special place for our family. I was born in Lincoln, my grandfather Jerry Bush was the head coach at Nebraska, my other grandfather was a long-time professor there, and my parents are proud graduates of the University of Nebraska. Nebraska has always felt like a second home.”

Hoiberg actually has experience coaching in Pinnacle Arena, home of the Cornhuskers. The Bulls and Mavericks played a preseason game there in 2015, something Hoiberg also mentioned in the press release announcing his hiring.

“I had the opportunity to coach at Pinnacle Bank Arena with the Bulls, and I have seen first-hand that the facilities are as nice as any in the country,” he said. “When you couple that with a loyal and passionate fan base, you can see there is great potential for the future of Nebraska basketball.”

Hoiberg’s hiring in Lincoln could be the start of a Big Ten family rivalry, as his son, Jack, is currently a junior walk-on at Michigan State.

NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Workout season could be more important than ever

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USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Workout season could be more important than ever

With Zion Williamson making his NBA regular season debut Wednesday night, we finally got a chance to see what a No. 1 overall draft pick is supposed to look like: an athletic and versatile skill set, with the chance to impact a franchise for years to come. 

2019 No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant also looks like a franchise-changing talent with his speed and playmaking ability, lifting Memphis into playoff contention.

So, which players will have that kind of impact in the 2020 draft?

Well, for now it’s almost impossible to say. James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 Memphis center, dropped out of school after playing just three games because of an eligibility battle with the NCAA. His size and raw tools are intriguing, but at this point his offensive game is extremely limited.

Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball’s younger brother, LaMelo is sitting out the rest of the Australian professional league season while he rehabs from a foot injury, another Australian professional, R.J. Hampton, just returned from a hip injury and North Carolina’s combo guard Cole Anthony is getting ready to return from a knee injury to finish his one and done season. 

That’s left NBA talent evaluators scrambling in trying to figure out the top of the draft, with only Georgia’s Anthony Edwards healthy and available among the players projected as the possible No. 1 overall pick. 

So, as we get closer to the end of January, here’s a look at how teams could view the available talent, with the understanding that the draft order will change dramatically as NBA scouts and GMs get a look at how players perform in the most important games of the season still to come.

2020 NBA mock draft 3.0

Kemba Walker and Trae Young being named All-Star starters could help Zach LaVine

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USA Today

Kemba Walker and Trae Young being named All-Star starters could help Zach LaVine

On Thursday, the NBA revealed the East and West starters for the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago. Take a look:


Bulls fans will be honed in on the East selections given Zach LaVine's absence, though his realistic chances of starting the game have been slim-to-none since the first month of the season. In the last round of fan voting returns, LaVine was sixth among Eastern Conference backcourt players. He finished there, as well:


LaVine will get a chance to slide into a reserve slot, but the East’s starting backcourt of Kemba Walker and Trae Young leaves a crowded field to contend with. Guards competing for the seven reserve spots include Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Malcolm Brogdon and Jaylen Brown. And that's without mentioning frontcourt favorites in Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis.

But a modicum of good news did come from this announcement for those stumping for LaVine: Kyrie Irving's omission from the starting lineup. Irving, who has only played 15 games this season, had been second in fan voting at the time of last returns. Had he snuck in with the starters, LaVine would have also had Walker or Young to compete with for a reserve spot, both of whom he matches up with unfavorably. One has to figure Irving's odds of being selected by coaches as a reserve aren't high.

LaVine's chances still aren't necessarily great, but the coaches' picks for reserves will be announced on Jan. 30. If LaVine is shorted there, as well, there remains the possibility of an injury replacement down the road, which commissioner Adam Silver would select (this is probably his best shot).

Once the final pool of players is decided, they'll be drafted by team captains Giannis Antetokoumpo and LeBron James on Feb. 6.

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