Fred Hoiberg to add a personal touch to the Bulls


Fred Hoiberg to add a personal touch to the Bulls

Fred Hoiberg sat on the podium for his first Media Day like it was his 15th, cracking sly jokes, smiling easily and appearing relaxed without a hint of arrogance headed into his first training camp.

Of course, smiling came as easy as passing a kidney stone to Tom Thibodeau, but personality aside, Hoiberg is replacing a successful coach who gave this team an identity it lacked for so long.

Hoiberg’s task is to build on the foundation, one he readily acknowledges was established by Thibodeau through five years of grinding, prodding and more prodding.

Hoiberg’s signature may be a little softer but possibly—and hopefully for his sake—just as successful. The Hoiberg affect may be more personal, it may be more of an actual touch.

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So when he had lunch with Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, the man who took over for a successful coach and led his team to an NBA title, Hoiberg took note.

“We talked about when he took over, some of the things that he felt were important to do,” Hoiberg said. “And that was one thing he mentioned, I felt coming into the job that I felt I had to get out and see everybody. So after the summer league was over, that was my priority.”

So he loaded up on the frequent flyer miles, going to see each of his players in their respective element after the Las Vegas Summer League. Whether it was seeing Derrick Rose in Los Angeles or Jimmy Butler in San Diego or Joakim Noah in Santa Barbara, he met them on their turf, to introduce himself, to let them know a little about himself.

Not to establish that he wasn’t Thibodeau, but to show them he wasn’t going to be some empty suit.

“As far as the goal of going out and seeing everybody, it was really just to build the relationships up with them,” Hoiberg said. “And show them some areas where I thought they might get the ball on the floor so they could work on those skills when they were away from the gym here in Chicago.”

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Most coaches will tell you there’s only so much strategy that comes with being successful, that establishing a connection that will result in getting some stubborn men to join together for one singular goal.

“It’s going to be a little adjustment, but it should be challenging and fun at the same time,” Rose said. “We know that we love playing basketball, being under Thibs system for so long that now it’s a new vibe to the team, a new coach. He brings something new to the table where he’s more relaxed. I think the players should appreciate that more, I think we should appreciate it more.”

That’s not a shot at Thibodeau, but perhaps an admission that things were a bit sterile on his watch. Butler said Hoiberg’s approach has permeated through the entire coaching staff. 

“I’m excited. You see the way that they work together as a whole with coach Hoiberg,” Butler said. “They’re always out here with the guys working with the guys getting up shots, helping them work on their game. That’s important because you really get a knack for the guy you’re around and you get to understand and feel them, not only on the court but off the court.

“I think that’s just as important, so you know what’s going on in their personal life, so you can relate to them and all. They work really hard with that and always ask how we’re doing. And when we play basketball, it’s time for business. But other than that, they’re really good people too.”

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The man who hired him, who seemingly bumped heads with Thibodeau and won, Gar Forman, has noticed the change. But again, it should be stated, the warm and fuzzy talk had better be accompanied by W’s.

“You can see the players responding to it,” Forman said. “And I think the players are as excited as we are about everything Fred's going to bring to the table. He's had a great summer. Our guys have responded and that's been a real positive.”

It all begins with two-a-days, and Hoiberg will have to make tough decisions on playing time, hierarchy and rotations. In other words, the honeymoon won’t last long with everybody.

“Training camp's going to be very competitive,” Hoiberg said. “When we step out on that floor tomorrow for the first time, I know those guys are going to be going at it and going after each other.”

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.