Bulls

Hoiberg shows Bulls difference in energy, pace in film session

12-13-fred-hoiberg-bulls.png

Hoiberg shows Bulls difference in energy, pace in film session

The difference in energy for the Chicago Bulls from the first quarter to the fourth on Saturday was as easily identifiable for Fred Hoiberg as it was the United Center crowd who witnessed the Bulls receive their wake-up call in the nick of time in their 98-94 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

He made sure to show the contrast in Sunday’s film session, hoping the message would translate to the starters.

“It was good. We showed some examples of some really good plays, some really good ball movement, some really good pace,” Hoiberg said. “And we also showed when it wasn’t so pretty, especially in that first half and beginning of the third. Hopefully we learn from that. It was a good session.”

[MORE: Noah's, Brooks' energy spark Bulls in come-from-behind win]

Joakim Noah’s ability to push the ball up the floor, set screens and initiate dribble handoffs as well as his overall relentless activity was a huge key to the Bulls’ fourth-quarter intensity.

Hoiberg is resisting the urge of re-inserting Noah back into the starting lineup, although many will remember Noah was slated to start in Philadelphia on Nov. 9 before his knee began acting up, resulting in his only missed game so far this season.

“We always talk about those things. But again, with that second group, he’s really developed a nice chemistry with those guys,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve liked the dynamic of that second group. I’m getting JO in there pretty early. I think it was the 6 or 7 minute mark yesterday. And that picks up our energy.”

What Hoiberg couldn’t explain is the standing around done by the first unit, the group that doesn’t seem to fully believe in Hoiberg’s system. Yes, Derrick Rose gets the ball up the court in three seconds per Hoiberg’s request but everything else is a struggle.

“That’s a good question. The big thing is just continue to put them in those situations,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what we worked on in practice today. You just hope it carries over. That second group is seeing the success they’ve had because of those situations and now they’re doing it more often because they trust it.

“We gotta get everybody out there doing that. And I’ll say this: Joakim has done a great job the last couple games going into dribble handoffs and flashing to the ball at the right time and getting some good action going on out there.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Hoiberg was practically giddy at the sight of the second unit putting it altogether, for one of the few times he could see his vision come to fruition. Aaron Brooks scored 15 of his 17 in the fourth, and chalks it up to familiarity.

“We know each other. It’s good to have Niko back, he spaces it out a little bit,” Brooks said. “We just come in and play hard, and guys are hungry and fighting for backup minutes so it brings an extra intensity.

“You wanna come in and be a spark off the bench. Sometimes the starters got it going and the bench doesn’t. I don’t think it’s anything, you just wanna change the rhythm of the game. Just go out there and play your game, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s anything in particular, as far as seeing something different.”

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

nba_power_rankings.jpg
USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.