Bulls: Fred Hoiberg calls for accountability during recent slide


Bulls: Fred Hoiberg calls for accountability during recent slide

It’s happened more than a few times this season, instances where adversity hits the Bulls and they fold, rather than fighting through it, leading to disappointing losses and cryptic comments thereafter.

Wednesday’s eye-opening, eye-popping loss to the Golden State Warriors prompted the players to verbalize the usual rhetoric about not communicating, and perhaps it made Fred Hoiberg do a little soul searching as well in the aftermath.

Getting beat by 31 points on national TV tends to bring about that kind of action, and Hoiberg said he’s no longer letting the players off the hook, believing the players should take more ownership of what’s going on.

“It starts with me. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I need to do a much better job of when the communication isn’t there of holding the guys more accountable with that.”

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Players and coaches alike all have said the practices are spirited and productive, but the lethargic efforts have been noticeable, particularly on the defensive end. So to hear Hoiberg preach about accountability is a change in philosophy.

“I’ve done a poor job of bailing them out sometimes by talking too much in practice or having an assistant coach talk too much,” he said. “We almost have to be silent. And it has to come from the players. Because it’s pretty glaring when we’re not doing it and the gym is silent from the coaches.”

That silence on the floor has led to some extended runs for opponents, and just situations in general that a usually-resilient bunch would bounce back from. Now, they seem to cower in the corner.

“We need to do a better job of battling through adversity. Tough times are going to hit you pretty much every time you step on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We didn’t get off to a great start against Detroit. We got down double figures. We bounced back and had a great last three quarters. You hope that carries over to the next one. We got off to a solid start last night. We had a lead in the first quarter with under six minutes to go. And then they jumped on us. And we didn’t respond well.”

Nikola Mirotic is one of the players in need of response, one of four Hoiberg likely described as having a new role for the first time in his career. After a strong start to January, his production has gone from a slump to something deeper in the last four.

His totals are just as disturbing as Wednesday’s 31-point beatdown to Golden State: 19 points and 14 rebounds on five of 28 shooting (17 percent) and two of 12 from 3-point range (17 percent).

For someone who came into the season depended on as a valuable cog, that’s not the kind of production the Bulls can win with.

“It’s true that I started off a little bit better in 2016, especially for the first week,” Mirotic said. “I was playing with a little more confidence, you know? Playing the three, playing the four, too, but again I’m struggling a little bit now. I’m not shooting the ball well. I’m not feeling the same confidence like I was feeling before, but it could happen.”

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Whether starting or coming off the bench, the lack of confidence has been startling. The hesitation, not knowing where to be on the floor on either end, is all on full display and it looks like he’s not shaking himself from it anytime soon.

“I’m playing with more confidence at the four because that’s my natural position that I’ve been playing all of my life, but believe me it was a good experience for me playing the three,” Mirotic said. “I think after a couple of weeks I adjusted a little bit. So now I’m playing just the four again, so whatever coach needs me to play.”

The man who dazzled last March when the Bulls were without Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler is a shell.

“I was playing with a lot of confidence that month,” he said. “Playing a lot of minutes. Having a great feeling you know. I’ve been shooting a lot from three, playing in the low-post, different game. Today, I’m not scoring easy baskets. I’m not running like before. I’m not making those open threes. I’m not doing things in the low post. But if I can do it last year in March, I can do it this year, too. It’s a little bit confidence, a little bit more working out, and I think it will come soon.”

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:

Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen. 

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

Mark Schanowski talks all things hoops with Indianapolis Star Pacers beat writer J.Michael. Is Victor Oladipo ready to take the next step as a legitimate MVP candidate? Can the Pacers challenge the top three teams in the East? Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the NBA? And, will the signing of Dwight Howard mean disaster in the nation’s capital? Plus, the guys make their predictions for the upcoming season.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: