Bulls

After meeting Sunday, Hoiberg, Butler address 'elephant in the room'

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After meeting Sunday, Hoiberg, Butler address 'elephant in the room'

Jimmy Butler couldn't ignore what he called “the elephant in the room” when he walked into the Advocate Center for Bulls shootaround after his comments about wanting Fred Hoiberg to coach the team harder. And neither could the Bulls’ coach.

“I had a great talk with Jimmy yesterday,” Hoiberg said. “We met for over an hour in my office and talked a lot of things out and I think came out in a better place. Sometimes, in a situation like what happened, you can become a better team and a better leader.”

Hoiberg admitted ever-so-slightly there are improvements he can make to his style, even though the team hasn’t fully bought in to his strongest suit, the fast-moving offensive scheme.

“Are there some things I can do better? Sure. Are there some things that all of us can do better? Absolutely,” Hoiberg said. “Are there some things I need to demand probably a little bit more? Sure. But it’s something where I thought we made a lot of progress as a team. It’s getting back to those things we demanded leading into that win streak.”

[MORE BULLS: As Jimmy Butler finds his voice, time for Fred Hoiberg to do the same]

For his part, Butler didn’t regret his comments about Hoiberg but said they came from a place of emotion after two losses in a 24-hour span: a four-overtime loss to Detroit coupled with a dead-legged showing in New York against the Knicks, which prompted his display of frustration afterward.

“I put a lot of it on myself now because I got to lead better,” Butler said. “Can’t allow stuff to happen. Yeah, we lost one I wanted to have at home against Detroit, and then the way that we lost in New York, so you got raw emotion right there.”

After Butler and Hoiberg mutually agreed on the team plane to meet Sunday afternoon, Butler also had to talk with some of his teammates before the morning shootaround.

He said it “opened some eyes” for his teammates considering he did it in such a bold and public manner.

“Because people know when they’re doing things they’re not supposed to be doing,” Butler said. “So hopefully that’s changed. We addressed it in the media, Fred had, so I think it will all turn around for the better.”

[MORE BULLS: NBA Power Rankings: The league's other best team]

He admits it’s a learning curve for himself, as he earned a max contract this summer with his strong play but never found himself in a position as a team leader. So while a first-year coach is taking steps about learning his team, Butler is taking steps about developing his own style as a leader.

“Tell you the truth, I had more things to say to people individually,” Butler said. “Fred did majority of talking when we were in the film room earlier. But I think when I walked in this building, everybody knew what was going on. I explained my opinion and what I'm gonna do to change things here. Everybody accepted what I had to say.”

It’s been said Butler hasn’t been as accepting of Hoiberg’s offensive style and that he’s broken off plays, so when Butler was asked who should Hoiberg start coaching harder, he pointed the finger squarely at his chest.

“Me. Truthfully, I mean that. Myself,” he said. “I think if you can set an example out of me, the way that I’m playing right now at a high level, that will make it easier for guys to take criticism on this floor, on this team. And then if they see me react like a child and pout and whine, then it gives them reason to do so. But I’m not going to do that, so it won’t give them a reason to do that.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Butler denied it had anything to do with some of the lethargic play that occurred last season with previous coach Tom Thibodeau, and it only came out due to the two-game losing streak that dropped the Bulls to 15-10.

“Nope. It goes back to what I always said, if we would've won that game in New York, it wouldn't have never happened,” Butler said. “But because we lost and I was pissed and frustrated, that's what you got.”

“If we run off 20 games in a row, it was a good thing. Winning takes care of everything. If we win, that's good, it needed to happen. If we lose, uh-oh, you know what I mean? At the same time I think it's good. Everybody knows what they have to do what they're supposed to do. Everybody's a leader and gotta bring their best every day.”

Surprise team in the East?: Bobby Portis compares Bulls to '17-'18 Pacers

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USA TODAY

Surprise team in the East?: Bobby Portis compares Bulls to '17-'18 Pacers

The Bulls haven't garnered much respect in the national media. And on top of that, Las Vegas definitely has already put the Bulls out of the running for a playoff spot, pegging them for 27.5 wins. But when it comes to doubting the Bulls, count Bobby Portis out. 

In an appearance on the Locked on Bulls Podcast last week, Portis stated that the Bulls would benefit from defined roles and was very confident in the team's outlook.

He went on to say that the Bulls will be "really good" and that the reason the team didn't win was because they "never got a chance to gel as one cohesive unit".

Portis compared this current Bulls team to an upstart Eastern Conference squad from last season.

He said, "There's always a surprise team, I feel like last year the Pacers were the, surprise team in the East, y'know? Maybe that can be us this year."

Portis is correct in the assessment that more practice time together as a whole unit will have a positive effect on the team. LaVine especially, should be able to hit the ground running after playing 24 games with the Bulls last year and now having a full training camp and preseason under his belt as well. And Portis himself, no longer worried about competing for a starting job, should continue to bring high-energy, scoring and rebounding to lead the bench unit. 

But his comparison of this year's Bulls team to the '17-'18 Pacers is perhaps the most intriguing.

The Pacers surprise season last year was spurred on by the excellent play of Victor Oladipo, the 2018 NBA Most Improved Player. If one of LaVine, Jabari Parker, Markkanen, Dunn or even Portis himself, can make a jump of this nature into (or near) All-Star status, then of course the sky's the limit for the '18-'19 Bulls. 

Near the end of the Portis interview on Locked on Bulls, Portis is asked to finish the sentence "The Chicago Bulls are going to win BLANK games this season." Portis responded that the Bulls are going to "win as many games as we can and we gonna make the playoffs."

Hopefully the rest of the Bulls are as confident as Portis. It could be just the attitude the team needs to get off to a fast start. 

28 Days to Opening Night: Las Vegas' over-under win total for the Bulls

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28 Days to Opening Night: Las Vegas' over-under win total for the Bulls

Las Vegas apparently doesn’t think much of the Bulls this season.

Despite winning 27 games a year ago Sin City has the Bulls booked for just 27.5 victories this season. That coming despite the fact that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn missed a combined 102 games and the team was trying to lose by resting veterans.

We’ve written it multiple times, but it is worth saying again: The Bulls are easily going to win more games than they did a year ago.

This total will go over fairly easily.

And if it doesn't, we’re not liable for the money you might lose.