Bulls

Fred Hoiberg: Bulls starting five an evolving matter

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Fred Hoiberg: Bulls starting five an evolving matter

Whether it was truly a last-second decision to change the starting lineup or a coy tactic to keep an opponent off track will always be a subject for debate in Fred Hoiberg’s first year. But switching out Tony Snell for Doug McDermott proves set ideals in this transition will probably be thrown out the window.

“It probably will be an evolving thing,” Hoiberg said. “We made the decision with Doug really just about an hour before the game when we made that final decision to start him. It wasn’t anything that we were not pleased with. It was just a rotation thing and we wanted to have a secondary defender with (Kevin) Durant in case Jimmy (Butler) got in foul trouble, which happened. Tony was able to come off the bench fresh and give some good quality minutes on Durant at the defensive end.”

Until Mike Dunleavy comes back from his back surgery, something that could be at least several weeks away, who starts could be dependent on matchups for that night.

[MORE: A more aggressive Derrick Rose benefiting Bulls]

McDermott said he was informed at Thursday morning’s shootaround and definitively told before the Bulls’ 104-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, where only at the latter did Hoiberg leave the door cracked for a change in the first five.
For what it’s worth, McDermott had enough time to call his mother back home and for her to get on a flight to Chicago for his first career start, a feat he didn’t take lightly no matter the circumstances.

“I think it was just a better matchup for me against (Andre) Roberson than against (Dion) Waiters or any of those guys,” McDermott said. “So yeah, I found out at shootaorund and informed me before the game again to make sure.”

In his first career start, McDermott scored nine points in 23 minutes but his presence didn’t stop the Bulls from getting off to a slow start, prompting Hoiberg to put in a couple new sets offensively to stimulate movement.

But it doesn’t mean for sure McDermott is starting Saturday against Dallas, although it would be a decent bet to assume so.
“I don’t know, it’s all depends on who Minnesota goes with to be honest,” McDermott said. “I’ll be ready for either, it really doesn’t matter to me. As long as I’m contributing to winning, that’s all that matters.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

If Hoiberg was oblivious to the possible mixed signals he sent before Thursday’s game, he was even less aware of the mini-panic that took place in the wake of Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Charlotte Hornets—quelled by the relief of Thursday’s encouraging win.

“You want to play your best when it matters most. Right now, we’ve had a couple really good performances. We beat Cleveland opening night and OKC,” Hoiberg said. “The other ones, we played really well for stretches. A big chunk of that Orlando game, we played maybe as well as we have all year. It’s trying to build towards that ultimate goal, playing your best basketball when it matters most. And that’s playoff time, which is a long way away.”

“It’s just the highs and lows of the season. The good thing is the way our guys bounced back after that awful loss we had. Now here’s the flip side: We had a great emotional win and you have to move past that one.”

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.