Bulls

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg leading candidate to replace Tom Thibodeau

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Bulls: Fred Hoiberg leading candidate to replace Tom Thibodeau

Who’s next?

It’s an open secret the Bulls front office have a particular fondness for Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, and although general manager Gar Forman and VP John Paxson didn’t address Hoiberg by name, nothing they said at the press conference to discuss the firing of Tom Thibodeau dissuaded anyone from thinking Hoiberg is the leader in the clubhouse.

Hoiberg’s name has been floating around this particular job for some months now, and league sources tell CSNChicago.com they expect him to be the next coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Whether that’s in quick order or sometime later, it appears to be his job to lose. Hoiberg spent four seasons with the Bulls after signing as a free agent in 1999, and later played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the other team that appears to covet the current college coach.     

[MORE BULLS: Where there's smoke, there's fire - Could Fred Hoiberg be next man up for Bulls?

“I just don't think we're going to put ourselves in a box,” Forman said. “I know that's kind of an easy thing to say, but we've got certain criteria, some of which I've already said, but we're not going to put ourselves in a box that it had to have been a head coach, an assistant, what level they've coached at.”

The relationship between Thibodeau and the front office had been fragmented for some time, sparked by various incidents and disagreements, both practical and philosophical, though the years.

Finding someone they’re simpatico with is of chief importance and their familiarity with Hoiberg places him at the front of the pack. The front office believes their championship window is still very much open, and obtaining a coach who can get the best out of their young talent is a priority.

[MORE BULLS: Tom Thibodeau dismissed as Bulls head coach]

“Our young guys need to continue to make steps,” Forman said. “Jimmy Butler made a huge one this year, something that Tony [Snell] and Doug [McDermott] and Nikola [Mirotic] and some of those guys need to continue to do. Just in general, we feel we have a talented team and a deep team that can continue to grow and improve and play at a high level.”

A coach who opens up the offense and won’t have it grinding to a halt with long scoring droughts is also high on the list, which is why many have suggested Golden State Associate head coach Alvin Gentry may receive a call.

Gentry is the mastermind behind Golden State’s spacing and quick-attacking offense, and he’s coached in Detroit, Phoenix and with the L.A. Clippers.

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“We're really looking for the right fit,” Forman said. “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.”

Many don’t expect the search to go too far or too wide, as Hoiberg has coached at his alma mater for five seasons, leading the Cyclones to four NCAA Tournament appearances and has an overall record of 115-56.

The only deterrent could be Hoiberg undergoing open-heart surgery in late April, an issue that played a part in his retirement from the NBA in 2005.

He’s earning $2 million per season and would be due for a big raise should the Bulls come calling. Thibodeau will be owed $4.5 million over the next couple seasons, which could be offset by whatever salary he makes should he take another coaching position.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.