Fred Hoiberg's synergy with Bulls front office on full display


Fred Hoiberg's synergy with Bulls front office on full display

The dawn of a new era was on full display at the Advocate Center, as new Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg sat patiently, and confidently, alongside the man who hired him for 48 minutes upon his introduction.

It was hard to imagine Bulls general manager Gar Forman and Hoiberg’s predecessor, Tom Thibodeau, sharing space on a dais for more than 48 seconds at a time, let alone enough time for four quarters.

“In Fred, we feel strongly that we’ve got a guy with a skill package of a winning coach, a guy who is a natural leader and a great, great communicator,” Forman said. “He’s a talented, in-demand coach that has attracted significant interest throughout the league and was atop our list as we began this process.”

Nobody believed anyone else was on the list, that Hoiberg was “The List,” and the Bulls were on a similarly short list of teams Hoiberg would leave Ames, Iowa, for.

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“When this opportunity presented itself, I kind of said at that time, 'If a situation comes about where you can compete for a championship ... a lot of coaches don’t walk into this,'” Hoiberg said. “To come here, again with an organization I’m familiar with, was I guess the overriding factor.”

If Vinny Del Negro got the Bulls from irrelevancy (first quarter), followed by Thibodeau establishing a strong foundation by taking them to the doorstep of the elite (second and third), Hoiberg is tasked with getting them over the hump in the “fourth quarter” to an NBA title — with far less friction of the last two.

Forman was on the Iowa State staff during Hoiberg’s college playing days, and he has plenty of familiarity with the Bulls organization, having played in Chicago from 1999 to 2003.

That synergy made it an easy choice for the Bulls, considering all the drama they had with Thibodeau.

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All Hoiberg is charged with doing is upgrading a stagnant offense, ensuring the harmony that flowed on Day 1 continues that way, all the while keeping the lines of communication open with his front office.

“I’m very confident in my relationship with these guys,” Hoiberg said. “Like Gar said, I’ve known him for a long time. John (Paxson) was doing radio when I was playing here the first time. I really got to know him very well, as well, so yeah, I’m very comfortable with my relationship and I’m excited about this moving forward.”

Oh yeah, and bettering a .647 winning percentage — the fourth-best in the NBA in the last four years. The other three franchises have made it to the NBA Finals at least once.

“I had a rival GM call me last night first of all to congratulate us on getting Fred to come as our head coach,” Forman said. “It’s a guy who tried to hire Fred in the last year or two. Quite simply, what he said to me is, 'You’re getting a special coach ,and you’re getting a special person.' He couldn’t have said it any better. We know we’re getting a special coach and person.”

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Hoiberg ran down the list of Bulls’ players — including Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, who were in attendance — running down mini scouting reports and the like for a roster he said he didn’t have much knowledge of until Forman and Paxson came in armed with owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s millions a few days ago.

Of course, he addressed the two main guys who couldn’t put it together good enough against the Cavaliers in the second round two weeks ago: Derrick Rose and restricted-free-agent-to-be Jimmy Butler.

“Derrick's obviously a guy who's at his best when he's playing downhill,” Hoiberg said. “If we can get the wings out running, you get that first big running to the rim, and you give Derrick space on the fast break, that's going to create a lot of opportunities.”

As for Butler: “I'm excited about Jimmy, obviously getting out and running on the wings. Jimmy's an attack player. If you can get him the ball on the run, on the move, and attacking the basket with pace, I think it's an ideal system for him.”

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And clearly, he, the front office and ownership believe he’s the ideal fit for a team that needs a bit of a facelift before taking the next step.

“I wouldn’t take this job if I wasn’t confident that we can continue to play at a championship level,” Hoiberg said.

The right words were said, and hopefully for his sake 12 months from now, there will be less talking and more playing — in June.

Jabari Parker channels his inner Uncle Drew: This game is about getting buckets


Jabari Parker channels his inner Uncle Drew: This game is about getting buckets

The Bulls gave Jabari Parker a two-year, $40 million deal for good reason.

One, the Bulls had the salary cap space to get the deal done and had just about filled out their roster. The money wasn't going to be used elsewhere. Also, the second year of the deal is a team option which gives the Bulls some security should Parker not be able to stay healthy or play up to the standards such a salary commands.

Parker was given that money for multiple reasons. One of those reasons was not for his defense.

But, according to Parker, no one gets paid for their defense.

Speaking on 670 The Score on Wednesday, Parker was asked about whether he felt he had the ability and effort to defend in the NBA, something he hasn't done particularly well in four seasons.

"I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense," Parker said. "There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.

"If you know the game, you also know that everyone’s a pro, right? And you know that certain guys have an average. No matter what you do, they still get that average. They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them."

Parker's right in one sense, that players are usually paid for their offensive output. There are also more tangible, easily read statistics on the offensive end than there are defensively. Heck, the Bulls gave $80 million to Zach LaVine and he was the team's worst defender last season.

But then again, defense matters. A whole lot, especially at a time when offenses are better than ever (thus making defenders more valuable). The final four teams in last year's playoffs were ranked 1st, 6th, 9th and LeBron James (29th) in defensive efficiency.

A day after Parker's comments the Celtics gave Marcus Smart a four-year, $52 million contract. He's a career 37 percent shooter and has made 29 percenet of his 3-pointers in four seasons.

So while Parker, a below-average defender, might not be entirely accurate, at least he's owning who he is. And if he scores like he did in Year 3, averaging 20 points before re-tearing his ACL, no one will care how he defends.

Kawhi Leonard joins Raptors in the East; it could be good news for the Bulls


Kawhi Leonard joins Raptors in the East; it could be good news for the Bulls

The best player in basketball left the Eastern Conference two weeks ago when LeBron James signed with the Lakers. Now another top-10 player in the league is on the move, as the Spurs dealt All-Pro Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan.

The Raptors, in essence, are going for it. General manager Masai Ujiri made a calculated decision that his current core - or more accurately, his top combination of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan - couldn't get over the hump. They've bowed out to LeBron James and the Cavs each of the last three years (including two sweeps) and, despite James moving to the West, now face legitimate tests in Boston and Philadelphia.

That's why Ujiri was willing to move DeRozan, the face of the franchise who had been with the team since he was drafted there in 2009, for a shot to get over the hump in the East. As talented as the four-time All-Star DeRozan is, he can't match what Leonard brings to the table on both sides of the ball. They also added wing Danny Green in the trade, making them a better team in the short-term.

That's where the Bulls come in.

Both Leonard and Green have one year remaining on their contracts. It's been well-documented that Leonard wants to play in his hometown of Los Angeles, meaning there's a better-than-not chance he plays just one season with the Raptors. Of course we saw what happened with Paul George and the Thunder, so never say never. It just appears likely at this point. Also, Green was more a function of making the dollars and cents work out in the deal; the 31-year-old probably isn't part of Toronto's long-term plans.

In other words, this could be Toronto's last shot. DeRozan had three years left on his contract, and Jakob Poeltl (also part of the deal) is entering the third year of his rookie contract. If the Raptors don't win in 2018 and Leonard bolts for the Lakers or Clippers, Toronto is looking at tearing it all down and entering, more or less, a rebuild phase. Both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka will be on the final years of their contracts, and the team might be willing to build around young role players in Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright and Norman Powell.

That's certainly a team the Bulls could move past in the following two seasons. With a young core that includes Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Kris Dunn and Jabari Parker - plus next year's first-round pick - the Bulls will be trending upward as the Raptors attempt to pick up the pieces on a potentially failed dice roll on Leonard. Had the Raptors run it back with DeRozan they'd at least have their core in tact through 2020 (and DeRozan has a player option for 2021).

So while the Raptors were going to be ahead of the Bulls in the standings regardless this year, their window to compete in the long-term closed by swapping DeRozan for Leonard. That's good news for the Bulls in the coming years.