Bulls expected to name Fred Hoiberg next coach Tuesday


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.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

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.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.