The start of an eight-month march began with simple installations of basic offensive and defensive concepts from Fred Hoiberg on the first day of Bulls’ training camp.
Aside from a hard elbow Derrick Rose took midway through practice that kept him out for the remainder of it, Hoiberg and the players said all the things one would expect after the first go-round, as the Bulls are a week away from their exhibition opener against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center.
“I thought it was really good. Guys picked things up very quickly,” Hoiberg said. “It was very competitive once we started getting up and down. There was a lot of teaching in this early part of the season, trying to implement some of the new things we’re trying to do and get everyone on the same page. But it was a good competitive hard practice.”
Coming from Iowa State but having NBA roots, he didn’t cite much difference between the college practices and ones in the NBA. He’ll have assistant coach Jim Boylen be more hands-on with the defense, but as a whole, he wasn’t trying to flood them with information on Day 1.
“Not a lot of differences. You still gotta go out there and teach them. We just had a basic one-on-one spacing talk before we got rolling this morning,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest difference is you’re preparing for an 82-game schedule as opposed to a 30-game schedule. You got less time before you start playing with a preseason game just a week away. So it’s getting ready with less time. So you have to put a lot of things in and we’ll get that accomplished in the non-contact part in the mornings.”
Considering the Bulls are an established team with not much roster turnover, it’s not like Hoiberg has to start from scratch when putting in his system. Aside from watching the workload of Pau Gasol, who just returned from the European Championships and is 35 years old, it’s not like he had to do a lot of teaching.
He also has to monitor Taj Gibson, who went through a full practice without any issues after undergoing left ankle surgery in June, but this camp is clearly about laying the foundation for a modified identity.
“That’s the great thing about this group. They’ve been around the NBA a long time,” Hoiberg said. “With our thinking, we have to be a little careful with the load we put on this group, especially some of the guys and their summer like Pau. We have to be careful and make sure he’s fresh for the opener on the 27th.
“But for the most part, they pick things up very quickly. We had a little pre-practice to get some of the guys caught up that haven’t been around. But I was very pleased with the flow of the practice. Now it’s about building and getting better every day.”
Jimmy Butler was singled out, among others, as one of those who had a good first day, which Hoiberg credited to Butler’s offseason regimen. Butler said he knows the preseason will be full of adjustments, experimenting and learning.
“There has to be. A lot of things are different on offense and defense,” Butler said. “I like to play defense, but even things are new to me, the way we’re going to do things. I think that’s OK, but everyone has to buy into it as a team.”
Of course Butler was asked — and this will be a running storyline at every turn this season — how the first practice compared to the ones run by Tom Thibodeau, Hoiberg’s predecessor.
“He’s very hands on, like he’ll stop practice and tell you what it’s supposed to be — you got to make this pass, you got to cut this way,” Butler said. “And then at the same time, he gives you the freedom to play offense. And then at the same time, he’s like you got to get out there and guard, so it’s fun.”