Bulls

Why now? Fred Hoiberg's firing not about wins and losses, but players' regressing 'energy and competitive spirit'

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NBCSC

Why now? Fred Hoiberg's firing not about wins and losses, but players' regressing 'energy and competitive spirit'

The state of the Bulls franchise made it pretty clear that Fred Hoiberg’s days in Chicago were numbered. After teetering in basketball purgatory for two years – with two uninspiring playoff wins as a No. 8 seed mixed in – the Bulls had won 32 games since the start of the 2017-18 season, third fewest in the NBA in front of only Phoenix and Atlanta.

But Monday’s decision by John Paxson and the Bulls front office to relieve Fred Hoiberg of his head coaching duties is peculiar for a single reason: Why now?

Yes, the Bulls are 5-19, on an NBA-worst six-game losing streak and headed toward the NBA Draft Lottery for a third time in four years. They’re 29th in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 28th in net rating. But no team has suffered more injuries than the Bulls this season, especially to key contributors, and at one point last month Fred Hoiberg was forced to start a backcourt of Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono. What chance did he have of surviving this?

The answer, Paxson said Monday afternoon at the Advocate Center, was a lack of “energy and competitive spirit” the front office noticed in games, practices and the locker room the last few weeks. That passion, Paxson said, had been evident even during last year’s tank-inspired 27-win season

“Something’s different,” he said. And what we’re lacking is kind of an energy and a spirit about our team, and we need to get that back.

“We need to identify the right way to play and we need that spirit with our group.”

The Bulls are still in the early stages of their rebuild, but in Paxson’s eyes they’re at a critical juncture. And though not even a full-strength Bulls team was expected to contend for a playoff spot, another losing season in the standings can’t mean a step back. And where Hoiberg had his moments as a tactician with a bright offensive mind, he was anything but a motivator.

And while the Bulls may lose more games than they win, they still need to progress as they work toward the latter stages of their rebuild. Whereas last season’s struggles were new to a Bulls team featuring more than a handful of players fighting for their careers, it appeared to Paxson as though a second consecutive year of losing was beginning to take its toll.

“Sometimes it’s just a sense that you have and you just notice it more and more,” he said. “And when you look in the locker room after a game and you don’t see guys maybe hurting as much as they did before about losing, those are all things that when you sit in my position, in Gar’s position, you have to pay attention to. And that’s what we were looking at.”

That’s where Boylen fits in.

It was a common sight on the Bulls sideline to see Boylen, not Hoiberg, yelling out defensive assignments, motivating players and arguing calls. That’s not necessarily a requirement to be a successful NBA coach, but it fits what the Bulls are looking for with the current state of their team. Boylen even admitted as much on Monday, boldly saying that "I think I’m a little more passionate in-game coach than maybe Fred is."

Added Paxson: “Jim will bring a strong voice to our locker room. When players know you have their best interest at heart, even when you’re pushing them to certain limits, players will respond to that. I think we’re at that point right now, especially with our young guys and especially with the guys coming back into play here soon, this is a change we needed.”

Even if it was simple posturing from the front office, a newfound energy under Boylen will be apparent upon the returns of Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis, two of the most vocal leaders both in the later stages of their knee sprain rehab. There's also the inevitable surge of performance from teams after a head coach is fired. If seeing your head coach fired because you showed lack of passion doesn't light a fire, nothing will.

That’ll be Boylen’s biggest task, Paxson said. At 5-19, the season still isn’t about wins and losses and Boylen won’t be based on them. But after a productive first year of a rebuild, the Bulls were trending in the wrong direction in most aspects outside of wins and losses.

Boylen started his NBA head-coaching career with a two-hour long practice and said all the right things at his introductory press conference. Now all eyes turn to him to see if his own competitive spirit and energy will transfer to his team in a way that Hoiberg apparently was unable to.

“You can have a team that plays hard every night no matter who you put out there,” Paxson said. “That’s energy and passion right there. I don’t care who you’re throwing out there. You have to get your guys to buy in and be connected.”

'Rodman: For Better or Worse' 30 for 30 will debut on September 10

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

'Rodman: For Better or Worse' 30 for 30 will debut on September 10

On Friday ESPN revealed that the next film in their award-winning 30 for 30 series will focus on the life of former Bull and Hall of Fame forward Dennis Rodman. 

The film—which is titled "Rodman: For Better or Worse" will detail Rodman's journey to becoming a Hall of Famer and five-time NBA Champion. The documentary will detail Rodman's difficult upbringing in Dallas, his dominant run at Southeastern Oklahoma State and his development into one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history. 

While Rodman is no doubt one of the greatest talents in NBA history, he is just as famous for his intriguing and oftentimes shocking off the court exploits. Rodman: For Better or Worse will discuss Rodman diving into international diplomacy issues and all of the deeper reasons behind him becoming the interesting character that we know him as today. 

The documentary will feature interviews from former teammates and coaches of Rodman's, including Bill Laimbeer,  John Salley, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, and Phil Jackson. 

Rodman: For Better or Worse will be directed by Todd Kapostasy. 

Kapostasy is a seven-time Emmy Award winner. He wrote and directed 2016 documentary 'Confessions of a Cubs Fan: A Century of Waiting', which focused on the idea that winning isn't everything in sports amid the backdrop of the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series.

“Rodman: For Better or Worse” released on September 10, at 8 p.m. CT

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

 

Coby White becomes first rookie in NBA history to understand his NBA2K rating

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NBA 2K20

Coby White becomes first rookie in NBA history to understand his NBA2K rating

It's that time of the year when every fan and player loses their mind over arbitray video game ratings that mean nothing.

That is, unless you're Coby White.

The rookie found out his rating for NBA 2K20 in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday and, much to the delight of this author, was pleased with his 76 rating.

"It's solid," White told Ronnie 2K. "Everybody be wanting their grade to be higher than what it is but I haven't played a game in the league yet so I understand why it's a 76. But I feel like after the season it'll be higher."

White said he hopes he can get his rating up to at least an 80 by the end of the season. Bulls fans would be pleased with that development, too.

White also said he was happy with his likeness in the game, which you can check out below.