Hoiberg teaching veteran Bulls basics on Day 1


Hoiberg teaching veteran Bulls basics on Day 1

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.