Hoiberg shakes up lineup to help get Bulls' toughness back


Hoiberg shakes up lineup to help get Bulls' toughness back

BOSTON, MA--In the Bulls’ search for answers, Fred Hoiberg did one of his last-minute changes that wasn’t actually last-minute, inserting Taj Gibson into the starting lineup in place of Nikola Mirotic.

It didn’t pay dividends in the Bulls’ 105-100 loss Wednesday to the surging Boston Celtics, the team with the best point differential in the Eastern Conference.

Gibson gave the Bulls a temporary boost that wasn’t sustainable, and surprisingly the most consistent frontcourt fourth-quarter player didn’t play much in the last 12 minutes, playing just 35 seconds as the Bulls spent most of the fourth fighting from behind.

His presence, at least to start, seemed to be in direct consult to Jimmy Butler saying the Bulls sometimes aren’t very tough, right on the heels of losing two in a row and getting out-muscled at home against Phoenix.

“I don’t know about all that,” Gibson said. “At times it’s frustrating, but it’s a long season. It’s a new game, we just have to keep playing. As the season goes on, we’ll see. We just gotta go out there and play.”

[MORE: Another ugly fourth quarter sinks Bulls in loss to Celtics]

It was a subject during the morning shootaround, as the Bulls tried to address their inconsistencies, at least with the dreaded label they hope doesn’t stick.

“That our team is sometimes soft? Yeah. It sucks,” said Joakim Noah, repeating the question to make sure he was hearing correctly. “You don’t want to be on a team where you feel like you’re not giving max effort. I feel like it’s deeper than that. We gotta stick together and find our way as a team. It’s not about pointing fingers. Not letting adversity get in the way, we have to stick together through the adversity. I think sometimes the adversity gets the best of us.”

Gibson, very quietly, tried to assert the Bulls’ toughness hadn’t left them over the course of a summer, even as the questions surrounding their mental toughness begin to mount too early in this season.

“I still think we got the rep,” Gibson said. “Maybe not with reporters, but on the court guys still see us as a team that’s got those tough guys.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

While things are seemingly turning more and more troublesome, as the Bulls’ loss put them No. 8 in the topsy-turvy Eastern Conference, Gibson is still preaching patience.

“Everybody has their philosophies. Just gotta be patient,” he said. “We have a great group of guys. We’re not like everybody else around the league that complains and cries, we just let everything take its course. Guys will do whatever it takes to get it done."

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls


Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.