Hoiberg adapting to NBA; Could Warriors break Bulls record of 72 wins?


Hoiberg adapting to NBA; Could Warriors break Bulls record of 72 wins?

Fred Hoiberg has plenty of experience in the NBA after a 10-year playing career and a stint in the Timberwolves front office, so it’s no surprise he’s adjusted quickly to on-court adjustments and managing egos on a 15-man roster in his first season as Bulls head coach.

It didn’t take Hoiberg long to realize he had to balance out his rotation to get a mix of offensive and defensive oriented players among his starters and 2nd unit. So, after experimenting with a frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Niko Mirotic and Doug McDermott, Hoiberg put Tony Snell back into the starting line-up to give the Bulls a better defensive unit at the start of games. The result has been fast starts in wins over Indiana and Phoenix, with McDermott able to maximize his scoring ability against the other team’s reserves. Hoiberg says his starting lineup and rotation will change throughout the season, which only makes good sense given the depth on the Bulls’ roster.

Equally important has been the increased minutes given to front court veterans Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. We all know Noah is the heart and soul of this Bulls’ team with his on-court intensity and competitive spirit. Similarly, Gibson can also provide a spark with his shot-blocking ability and low-post scoring touch. The two vets complement each other’s games, and genuinely enjoy playing together. Hoiberg has increasingly used the tandem late in games for crucial defensive stops, and you can expect they’ll get even more time as the season progresses. The Bulls also have talented 6-11 rookie Bobby Portis in reserve if frontcourt injuries occur.

[MORE: Bulls last regular-season team to win at Oracle Arena, but improbable task lies ahead]

Hoiberg also discovered early on that veteran backup point guard Aaron Brooks isn’t ideally suited to run his pace and space offense. Brooks is a scoring point guard who fit well in Tom Thibodeau’s scheme, but doesn’t always push the ball up-court and look for open shooters in transition. So, as soon as veteran Kirk Hinrich was ready to return from a toe injury, Hoiberg elevated Hinrich to the number one point guard back-up behind Derrick Rose. Hinrich may not be as athletic as he used to be, but he’s still very coachable, and he’s done an excellent job so far of directing the offense at a fast tempo, while showing the ability to hit open shots from 3-point range. Brooks will either have to adjust his game to fit the system, or watch his playing time disappear.

Hoiberg also has made good use of veteran guard E’Twaun Moore, who barely played under Thibodeau. At 6-4, Moore has the size and athletic ability to play both guard spots, and he’s also showed a nice touch from the outside. The Bulls have gone with 3-guard line-ups on multiple occasions late in games to get their best defensive players on the floor. Another sign that Hoiberg is a quick study in maximizing the talent on his roster.

Granted, we’re less than a month into the marathon regular season, and injuries will alter how Hoiberg and his staff allocate minutes, but the early returns are encouraging.


Outside of Kevin Durant’s upcoming free agency, this is probably the number one discussion topic in NBA circles. Given the strength of the top teams in the Western Conference, it seems pretty unlikely, but as long as Golden State keeps reeling off wins to start the season, the possibility of the Warriors getting to 70 or more victories can’t be dismissed.

But remember, the Bulls started off the 72-win season with a 41-3 record, so until Golden State can match or get close to that record, the odds are still very much against them. The West may not be quite as formidable as it was a year ago, but multiple games against the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Mavericks, Rockets and Grizzlies are bound to produce some losses, and a team that’s so reliant on 3-point shooting is bound to go through a slump at some point during the long regular season grind.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Golden State really doesn’t have a low post scoring option, but they’re still able to rack up points in the paint thanks to the penetrating skills of their All-Star backcourt and versatile forwards Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala. This is a deep team that’s also very underrated on the defensive end. My guess is they’ll come close to last season’s total of 67 regular season wins, but unless they can stay completely injury-free and escape with a few lucky wins like the one they got against Brooklyn last week, 72 is probably out of the question.

The Bulls handed Golden State one of its two home court losses last season, and they’d like nothing better than to knock off the Warriors at Oracle Arena Friday night.

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


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


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.