Bulls

Bulls will experiment with lineups in preseason; Gasol, Mirotic keys

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Bulls will experiment with lineups in preseason; Gasol, Mirotic keys

Despite the Bulls being a relatively stable team in terms of personnel, when they step on the floor for the preseason some unique player combinations will be used.

After all, preseason is the time for experimentation and Fred Hoiberg has to work this Rubik’s Cube to make the product more diverse and less predictable than previous seasons.

“I try to split up the groups pretty even. We mix and match,” Hoiberg said. “We had three separate scrimmages where we put a lot of combinations of guys together.”

Hoiberg revealed Pau Gasol only played the first few minutes in a couple scrimmages before completely sitting out the third, likely part of the “Saving Gasol’s Gas” plan considering his age and the fact he played for the Spanish National Team over the summer.

[MORE: Jimmy Butler setting tone in camp with his play and his mouth]

Gasol and fellow Spaniard Nikola Mirotic will be key pieces in the diversity of the Bulls offense this season, as the Bulls will employ the popular “four-out, one-in” offensive set many teams use to maximize floor spacing for drivers and open 3-pointers for shooters.

“We’ll run some four out and one in,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll run some four out and one in with two bigs on the floor, especially with Pau out there. He has proven he can make shots and he can also make plays. If you swing it to him and he doesn’t shoot it, you can get into a second side action.”

Mirotic, in theory and form, is a good 3-point shooter but the numbers say he’s a 31.6 percent shooter. Teams won’t be so quick to run out and defend a shooter with those numbers, no matter his skill set.

Apparently it’s been a point of emphasis in camp, as the Bulls hope to improve on their 35 percent efficiency last season, but they were middle in the pack in terms of attempts.

[RELATED: Joakim Noah wants another shot at pairing with Pau Gasol]

“His three-pointers are much more consistent this year,” said Bulls forward Taj Gibson, who’s had to guard Mirotic on occasion in camp. “He's been doing a lot better as far as taking the pressure, knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot. We've been trying to get him to shoot a lot more, and he's been playing well.”

Hoiberg said Mirotic is more comfortable at the power forward than small forward, so he doesn’t appear to be a prime candidate to take Mike Dunleavy’s place in the first five.

But nothing is decided yet for the long-term, hence Hoiberg’s desire to see different starting lineups all through the preseason.

He hasn’t ruled out starting Gasol and Joakim Noah together, and is noncommittal on just about anything so early in camp.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It was good to see different combinations, to start that process,” Hoiberg said. “As for who’ll be our starter for opening night, I don’t think we’ll probably start the same lineups for all the preseason games. We’ll see. We still have a few days before that first preseason game on Tuesday.”

And they have a long way before the regular season begins against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so all of this is in the embryonic stage.

“(Today’s a) very good teaching segment,” Hoiberg said. “Never been part of any staff, roster, player, coach where we walk out after our first scrimmage and say ‘all right guys, we got it all figured out’. We got a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to get cleaned up and work on.”

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.